What is a Drug & Alcohol Counselor?

Drug & alcohol counselors are trained professionals who work with patients to help them better understand and overcome their addictions. Drug abuse is an epidemic not only in the United States, but many other countries around the world. Many of those who face a daily struggle with addiction eventually seek out help. It is a drug & alcohol counselor's job to provide the assistance these people need to overcome their destructive behaviour. Counselors help by offering support, rehabilitation, and guidance to patients. By counseling patients, they hope to allow them to gain greater insight into their addictive personality. Using various techniques, counselors seek to help an addict find the root cause of their problem. This often helps patients have a breakthrough, which can be a positive step on their road to recovery.

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What does a Drug & Alcohol Counselor do?

Drug & alcohol counselors treat patients either one on one or in group settings. They educate and develop treatment plans for patients to help them better cope with their addictive personalities. Periodically, counselors will assess patients to determine how much progress has been made towards recovery. Typically, counselors work within a rigid program structure as determined by their employer. These programs are often implemented by facility managers and chiefs of staff. For example, the twelve step program may be used to treat alcohol addiction at a particular hospital or treatment facility where a counselor is employed.

Counselors seek to find what triggers a patient's behavior and to help them eliminate such triggers from their life. They take detailed notes, which helps them to form a better understanding of a patient's unique situation. They ask appropriate questions and offer advice as to which approach is best for treating a particular problem. Counselors are trained to recognize attitudinal barriers which may inhibit a person's ability to successfully overcome their addiction. They then work to help patients remove those barriers.

Drug & abuse counselors also teach patients how to best prevent a relapse. They do this by developing a strategy to help patients manage their problem in the best way possible. Helping them to understand the signs and symptoms of their addictive behavior can often prevent a patient from experiencing a total relapse. Ultimately, the goal is to find a course of treatment which will enable a person to finally break free of a destructive pattern and get on with their life.

Counselors also work to increase awareness of drug problems. This often involves writing articles for local newspapers, magazines or blogs, as well as speaking to community groups. Conducting drug education workshops and community outreach programs help to provide information to those who may be reluctant about seeking treatment.

What does it take to be a Drug & Alcohol Counselor?

To be a successful drug & alcohol counselor, you must possess a great degree of empathy for those who you're trying to help. This is a job where you will be trying to save lives. The majority of people addicted to alcohol or drugs also have mental and behavioural problems which need to be addressed. This can often make effective treatment all the more difficult. The job can be very frustrating as many people who receive treatment eventually relapse. High caseloads are also common, particularily for counselors that work in government. Long work hours and relatively low pay help to further make career burnout a common problem. To do this job well, you have to love working with and helping people. You have to be willing to effectively communicate with people and work tirelessly on their behalf. As a result of your hard work, many patients will be able to reclaim their lives and finally overcome their addictions. While it can be a tough job, it can be a rewarding one as well.

The majority of drug and alcohol counselors have either a bachelor's or master's degree. Social work, sociology, or psychology are all common areas of study. Extensive volunteer work is common for those seeking careers as counselors. Many states require that a counselor either be licensed or certified. Certification typically involves completing an educational program followed by hundreds to thousands of hours of supervised work. As such, certification can take years to complete. Federal and state agencies often require certification, while private treatment facilities may not. Licensure is awarded by states to counselors who've completed advanced degrees. Usually, it is required that a licensed counselor have a master's degree in either social work or psychology.

What is the workplace of a Drug & Alcohol Counselor like?

Counselors work in a variety of settings. Institutionalized settings are very common. These include prisons, hospitals, half way houses, and drug treatment centres. While private sector work is readily available, many counselors work for the government through health departments and welfare agencies. Settings can either be inpatient or outpatient.

How much does a Drug & Alcohol Counselor earn?

Salaries range from $30,000 per year up to $60,000 per year for more experienced counselors. Given the number of people affected by drug and alcohol abuse, it is easy to understand why demand for counselors is so high. With more people choosing to seek treatment each year, demand is expected to increase. Additionally, city and state governments are also choosing to send drug offenders to treatment instead of prison. As a result, salaries for drug & abuse counselors are expected to increase in the next few years.

Learn more about being a Drug & Alcohol Counselor