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Substance Abuse and Behavior Disorder Counselor: Education and Career Information

There are a number of substance abuse counseling initiatives in place, but what types of careers are available for this industry? A substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor is one of the first positions that directly deals with clients who are seeking assistance for rehabilitation or other behavior problems. This client may have been referred as part of a diversion program, or one that is there as a result of a family member. This position is also called an addiction counselor and can be a very rewarding career for someone who enjoys doing research and dealing with individuals that may need assistance in dealing with daily life after an addiction or some other social problem.

What does a substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor do?

A substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor has a number of duties. They work with clients on an individual basis and also in group settings. From the onset, they work to assess and evaluate each client based on certain criteria such as their addiction, behavioral problems, mental or physical health and whether or not they are ready to commit to treatment. These positions also assist in developing treatment goals and plans in conjunction with the client.

These substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors help clients develop skills and learn why they are displaying certain behaviors, working to alleviate and/or rectify these behaviors once realized. They refer clients to other outlets and resources to get the information and assistance they need, whether it is housing, social services or employment. They also conduct outreach programs that will identify addiction and other behaviors that are causing a detriment to the client.

How much does a substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor earn?

The salary for a behavior disorder counselor, or substance abuse counselor varies depending on the amount of experience they have, the location where their position is located, and educational level. On average, these counselors make about $18.57 per hours, or $38,620 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low scale, substance abuse counseling pays about $25,200. Employment in this area is expected to grow by 31 percent through 2022, which is faster than the average for other industries.

What types of skills are required to be a substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor?

There are a number of skills needed to be a substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor:

Psychology: There must be a strong background in psychology to understand the individuals in which this position must work. Being able to pinpoint when the clients are not being truthful, taking the time to really assess their mental state, and anticipating their next actions all require a strong psychology presence.

Customer Service: Dealing with others means you have to have strong customer service skills. It is important to be able to convey information effectively, and handle people on an everyday basis, regardless of things they have done.

Therapy and counseling: A substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor must have a thorough knowledge of therapy and counseling in order to do an effective job. It is important to have all the training and necessary certifications to be a counselor that can get results.

Active Listening: Being able to listen to clients, their families and other individuals is key in being successful in this role. It is an important element in therapy and counseling, and also works in conjunction with the other components of skills that are needed to do a good job.

Reading comprehension: A substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor must be able to read documents, research and other items that may or may not be distributed to individuals or groups. There may be times when clients have to write certain information. As their counselor, lacking effective reading comprehension skills will only hinder both the client and the counselor from making progress.

Critical Thinking: A counselor of this nature must be able to think critically to understand the mindset of the clients. Many times clients are still in denial and will say anything to get out of treatment. It is important to be able to recognize certain scenarios and when clients are not doing the work to get better in their treatment plans.

Coordination: Coordinating schedules and a number of other variables is important in being able to successfully deliver services in a thorough and professional manner. Clients should be able to view the counselor and how they act and interact in coordinating meetings, events, individual meetings and group counseling settings. Being able to coordinate and maintain client files under extreme confidentiality is also a major factor.

Time Management: One of the most important components that must be in place for clients to emulate is the effectiveness of time management. As a counselor, making sure you are always on time, things are prepared in a timely manner, and clients can see things getting done is invaluable in making sure the job is being done correctly.

Persuasion: A substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor must be able to use persuasion in certain instances when clients are unsure about where they stand or whether or not they can complete the treatment program. Being able to convince them of their progress and how effective a program can be is important in getting results.

Internship Requirements

2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised, clinical experience is required prior to getting licensed by the state.

Education Requirements

Depending on the type of work and the setting where the individual will work plays a huge role in the educational background they must attain. The educational requirements vary based on what is required from the place of employment. If in private practice, the substance abuse and behavior disorder counselor must be licensed. Let’s take a look at the process:

The first step should be enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program to obtain this degree. Once this have been completed, the individual should further their education and obtain a master’s degree to attain licensure. The National Board for Certified Counselors will have the standards for the national exam and any other information needed.

A career in behavior disorder counseling can be challenging, but is also rewarding for individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of others. By understanding how much of an impact can be made, you can be part of life-changing components in someone’s life.

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