Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor  What They Do

Just the Facts


Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors Career Video



Insider Info

dotAddictions counselors help individuals deal with some of the worst problems anyone can face -- addictions and substance abuse. Problems with addictions can affect a user's family life, marriage, self-esteem, career, education and mental and emotional health.

These counselors work closely with psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses and school counselors.

dotWhat qualities do you need to be a good counselor? "Learn how to talk less and listen more," says Vaughn Howland, a counselor in Maryland. "Learn how to let people be. Learn how to read and write well. All of these are essential traits for a drug and alcohol professional."

dotThe most commonly used recovery plan for people suffering from drug, alcohol or gambling dependency is the 12-step program. Addicts work their way through these 12 steps with the support of a "sponsor," and attend group meetings where experiences are shared.

dotThis is a stressful job and professionals always face the risk of burnout. Addiction is a complex problem that deals with the environmental aspects of the patient. High physical and emotional energy is required to handle the array of problems counselors face.

Most have offices because privacy is essential for confidential and frank discussions. This career does not have physical requirements and people with special mobility needs should have no problems pursuing it.

dotWork hours may be sporadic, according to Howland. "It's hard to schedule crises. You have to be flexible with some evenings and some weekends. Some travel is required. I average about 40 to 50 hours a week -- some are much less and some much more."

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.


At a Glance

Help people work through their addictions

  • Many counselors are focusing on prevention
  • More people are choosing to open a private practice
  • You'll need a degree, preferably a master's in counseling