An addiction counselor works with individuals who struggle with problems related to alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, sex addictions or eating disorders. These counselors see patients one on one and in groups. Addiction counselors assist their patients with the development of personal recovery programs that focus on healthier behaviors and examine the issues related to the addictions.
Although requirements for education and licensing vary by state, the following are generally required for addiction counselors:
In most states, addiction counselors are required to pursue continuing education credits to maintain their license.
An addiction counselor leads a patient to understand the behaviors and issues behind the addiction. Counselors work with patients on issues related to childhood trauma, stress, anger and others that may all contribute to addiction. They assist the patient with the development of coping skills to avoid giving into the addictive behavior. Support for the patient may be provided through crisis counseling, weekly sessions and group meetings, all of which can be overseen by the addiction counselor.
An addiction counselor often works with the family and others affected by the addiction. This intervention can come in several different forms including personal counseling sessions, family counseling and group meeting.
The addiction counselor may be professionally involved in any of the following scenarios:
Addiction counselors who operate via private practice set their own hours and determine their patient caseload. However, they bear all of the responsibility for their patients. Addiction counselors working in private treatment facilities and psychiatric hospitals often work with a team of professionals and may carry a fairly heavy caseload.
With greater numbers of patients seeking help and insurance companies offering more mental health coverage, the growth rate for counselors is expected to be around 24%, which is much faster than other professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also notes that substance abuse counselors should expect very positive job prospects.
According to a May 2008 report by the Federal government, the average annual salary for an addiction counselor was slightly over $37,000. The salary range for this profession fell between $24,000 and $59,000 annually.
The highest paid addiction counselors appear to be those in private or group practices although a greater number of job opportunities are derived from state and local psychiatric hospitals.