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Substance Abuse Counselor

colleges offer programs related to this career near San Mateo, CA

Career Overview

If substance addiction is an epidemic in our society, then substance abuse counselors are the doctors. But instead of treating illnesses and prescribing medicine like a doctor, they help clients overcome their addiction by providing guidance, advice, and emotional support.As a substance abuse counselor, you'll deal with all types of addictions, including alcohol and various drugs. Most of the actual treatment is just listening and speaking. During the first few meetings, it's important to assess the client's mental and physical health in order to figure out the best treatment options and solutions to fit their needs. You'll often start by asking a client questions, listening to their responses, giving them advice and offering comfort. For most clients, it's an incredibly emotional thing talking about their experiences and their lives. You must be very sensitive to this fact, and always be considerate of what the client is feeling or how they might react to something you say. On top of talking to them and listening to their stories, a very important part of the job is helping them develop ways to control their urges and overcome their addiction.Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles of the job is convincing a complete stranger to trust you. It sounds extreme, but you might have a client whom you would never have met if they weren't seeking your help. You have to be extremely warm and compassionate, letting your clients know that they can rely on you, since you might be the support they have. Overall, recovery takes a lot of time and energy, but it is well worth it in the end. It may not be the most high-paying job, but it's definitely one of the more rewarding ones.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
National
$
19.9 %
California
$
 

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Varies from High School Diploma to Master's Degree State License

To be a substance abuse counselor, you only need to go as far in your education as you want to. Many people choose to become substance abuse counselors after their own experience overcoming addiction and rely more on real-world experience rather than education. Higher education level only affects what you can do with clients, such as having private one-on-one sessions and working with less supervision. It's more important to focus on state licensure, since education requirements tend to vary from state to state and it's the most essential thing you need in order to work as a substance abuse counselor.A lot of people have chosen to pursue a higher degree, since substance abuse has become linked to overall mental disorders. Studying and learning this knowledge gives them an edge in the field, so a degree is necessary for many.

 
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Valued Traits & Abilities

Problem-Solving Skills
Communication Skills
Patience

Career Opportunities

Substance abuse is a very prevalent issue in our society, so you have your work cut out for you. But in the event you don't want to work exclusively with addicts, you can open up to a more board counseling field.

Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Instead of focusing on clients with substance abuse, behavioral disorder counselors tend to people with more general behavior problems, such as eating disorders, depression, or even anger issues. They're duties and responsibilities are all the same for the most part, so it just depends on the type of clients you choose to work with.

Work Environment

Most substance abuse counselors work full time in a variety of settings. Many work in mental health and substance abuse clinics (sometimes called rehabilitation centers), while others work for government agencies and hospitals. In some situations, you might have to work nights and weekends if there is a meeting to facilitate or clients you have to see.Since the job can be incredibly emotional for some people, you might run into some trouble. Some people might be incredibly frustrated and react negatively to the things you say. In other cases however, it's completely the opposite. Others might be incredibly relieved and grateful for your help. Whatever the case may be, you must be prepared to handle them calmly and professionally.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013