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What does a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor do?

By Lori Smith
Updated May 17, 2024
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A certified substance abuse counselor is usually employed at a residential treatment center, hospital, halfway house or outpatient clinic. Working with a team of psychiatrists and psychologists who monitor an addict's treatment plan, this type of social worker helps drug users and alcoholics overcome their dependencies. Many times, a certified substance abuse counselor leads group therapy sessions so that multiple recovering addicts can share their stories while supporting each other's efforts toward sobriety. Additionally, these individuals may also conduct one-on-one meetings with patients so that private issues can be addressed as well.

Most of the people with whom a certified substance abuse counselor works are in desperate need of help. Even when an individual recognizes the negative impact his addictive behavior has on his life, the urge to continue a drug habit becomes physically and emotionally unbearable. Jobs and family relationships frequently suffer as well. In many cases, the only way a person can achieve successful addiction recovery is by admitting himself into an inpatient residential treatment center.

To help people conquer substance dependency issues, a certified substance abuse counselor offers a tremendous amount of help and encouragement. He often is present from the very beginning of the recovery process, known as detoxification. This stage is often physically and psychologically painful for addicts. For this reason, many people return to drug use to alleviate their discomfort, especially when they do not have the benefit of a support system. Substance abuse counselors help patients through this stage with group and one-on-one therapy sessions.

A patient's family members may also be called upon to participate in talk therapy sessions. In fact, it is common for a certified substance abuse counselor to offer guidance and support to people coping with a loved one's drug or alcohol dependence. Counselors provide insight and support that can be instrumental in repairing turbulent family relationships as a result of addiction.

A certified substance abuse counselor understands the unique challenged recovering drug and alcohol addicts face. Professionals use their knowledge and experience to guide patients in the right direction and help them put their lives back in order. Some recovering addicts need help finding a job or a place to live, for example. Counselors may assist them in obtaining these basic needs so that a fresh start is possible.

In most cases, a bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement for certified substance abuse counselor positions. Many jurisdictions require candidates to pass a regional licensure exam as well. The salary of a certified substance abuse counselor can vary greatly. Usually, the difference in earnings can be attributed to a particular jurisdiction, level of experience or the employer. A private organization may pay a higher salary to counselors than government-run facilities, for example.

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