Last Updated on March 25, 2020 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Now that you are feeling strong and confident in your recovery, your attention may be beginning to turn away from yourself, and instead turn towards ways you can help others.  Certainly, you can be a big help simply by participating in support groups or even taking that a step further and becoming someone’s sponsor.  However, if you want to help even more than that, perhaps you will consider becoming a substance abuse counselor.  Substance abuse counselors are vital in the recovery process, and in keeping people going on their clean and sober path, and as a result, working in rehabilitation can be a very rewarding career.  As in anything, there are frustrations and obstacles to be overcome every day, but in the end, substance abuse counselors do a great deal of good for other people and the world.  How does someone become a substance abuse counselor?  What is a typical day like in this field?  Read on, and find out!

Why You Should Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

There is no rule that says substance abuse counselors should be in recovery themselves, but the vast majority are.  Others come from families where drug and alcohol abuse were common, and some are simply called to the profession for other reasons.  Since you are someone who is in recovery, your personal experiences will be a great help to you in this position.  You can draw from your own struggles and successes and connect with your clients on a very personal level.  You know what it feels like to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, and you also know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  You are living proof that people do recover, and you most likely have some substance abuse counselors of your own to at least partially thank for that.  Because you have lived through it yourself, you can pass on sympathy, but also strength, and you can impart the many strategies you used to get to where you are today.   Anyone coming to you for help will surely find these factors beneficial.

Furthermore, when you are studying to become a certified substance abuse counselor, you will learn a lot about the causes and effects of addiction.  Surely, you learned a great deal about these things while going through the recovery process yourself, but here you will go much deeper.  In doing so, you will level up educationally, and earn a new degree in something that interests you.   Once you are certified, you will continue to learn more through your experiences with clients and through professional development, workshops, and conferences you will attend to become a more effective counselor.

But perhaps the most important reason to become a substance abuse counselor is the fact that you will be helping others for a living.  You will make a difference for other people every single day, and you will likely even save some lives along the way.  Some days will be difficult, but the good days will be very good, and you will go home each night knowing that you were able to change someone’s life for the better.

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

The requirements for becoming a licensed and certified substance abuse counselor vary greatly from state to state. In some states people can become substance abuse counselors with just a high school diploma, but in most areas interested individuals must obtain an associates, bachelors, or even a masters degree to become certified.   The United States’ government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment has identified 123 competencies they consider vital for effective counselors, and these competencies have been incorporated into educational programs for aspiring substance abuse counselors.  Further, as part of training, internships, practicum hours, or other clinical supervision is typically required as well.  Most states also require potential substance abuse counselors to take a state credentialing exam before they are allowed to provide one on one counseling to clients.  To determine the requirements for your state, visit the websites of the credentialing organization in your state; you can locate this agency easily by using this chart.

A Typical Day as a Substance Abuse Counselor

A typical day for a substance abuse counselor is anything but typical and can vary greatly dependent on each counselor’s employment setting.   In an outpatient setting, a counselor’s days consist of assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, group and individual therapy, advocacy, record keeping, team meetings, and more.  Normal work hours in inpatient facilities are usually from 9am to 5pm, and the counselor’s clients will frequently change over time as some clients complete their treatment and new clients arrive.

In an inpatient setting, a counselor’s hours and responsibilities can vary greatly.  First of all, due to the around the clock care offered in a residential treatment facility, a substance abuse counselor’s hours could be at any time of the day, any day of the week.  The clients’ needs are much more acute and intense, and as a result, the counselor may be required to stay later or arrive earlier to help meet those needs.  As with an outpatient counselor, an inpatient counselor is responsible for assessments, individual and group therapy, long term planning, and strategic meetings with other staff to ensure that the best care possible is individualized to each participant in the program, but his or her caseload is likely smaller due to the large amount of time and focus required for each client.

In either case, the substance abuse counselor will spend most of his or her time working with clients and determining the best course of action to help the client break free from drug or alcohol addiction, and will help him or her to develop strategies that can be used to stay clean and sober in the immediate and long term future..  Although there are a great deal of administrative activities required for people in the counseling field, as well as numerous staff meetings, professional development, and other trainings, the main focus of this position involves a large amount of direct contact with the people being served, which is what most people entering this field seek.

A career as a substance abuse counselor can be one of the most amazing paths you can take.  The number of people you can help is endless, and your experience as someone in recovery can inspire them all.  It is not difficult to become a substance abuse counselor, and there is always plenty of need for them in all parts of the country.  Begin your training today, and soon you will be the person people turn to when they need help and support.  Find out how to begin, and begin!  Good luck!

At Clear Sky Recovery, we want to help you to take your first steps on the road to recovery.  At our facility in Cancun, Mexico, our knowledgeable and experienced staff will lead you through a life-changing ibogaine detox treatment.  This treatment will help you get to the root of your addiction and will allow you to begin to heal, free of withdrawal and cravings.  Give us a call today to discuss whether or not Clear Sky Recovery is right for you!