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Substance Abuse Counselor Job Description

Deepa Kartha
If you are planning to take up a career as a substance abuse counselor, it is important for you to know about this job profile. This will give you information on the duties and responsibilities of this professional.
A substance abuse counselor counsels those suffering from the problem of drug or alcohol addiction. Also known as a rehabilitation counselor or substance abuse technician, he helps people by teaching them the mechanics or skills to cope with their addiction. As getting rid of an addiction is difficult, this job is one of great responsibility and hard work.
Hence, if you are considering taking up this profession, it is important that you know its job description in detail. Here are some important duties and responsibilities that have to be handled by a professional specialized in counseling people who are suffering from the problem of substance abuse.

Job Description

A substance abuse counselor works at outpatient clinics where patients visit for a few hours for counseling sessions. However, he is also required at treatment centers like narcotics or alcoholic anonymous, as well as at hospitals. Some counselors are also needed at halfway houses, where addicts stay till they are completely cured of their addiction.

Individual and Group Counseling

One of the main responsibilities of the counselor is to conduct individual as well as group counseling sessions. During individual counseling sessions, he makes the patients understand the root cause of their problem, i.e., the reason why they turned to drugs or alcohol.
He also teaches them how to understand the factors that trigger their need to indulge in alcohol or drugs, and then help them avoid these temptations with the help of effective coping skills. On the other hand, during group sessions, the counselor encourages people to share their experiences with others who have undergone similar experiences.

Family Therapy

Apart from these sessions for the addicts, it is also his responsibility to undertake therapy sessions for the family of the addict. This is because, along with the addict, even his family members have to face a lot of problems due to his addiction.
The counselor helps the family members to cope with the patient during his recovery stage. This aids the family in dealing with the pain caused by the patient due to his addiction, and also helps them lead a normal life.

Help in Building a Career

Many times, individuals lose their jobs when they start abusing drugs or alcohol. It has also been seen that once the addict is completely recovered, he finds it difficult to rebuild his career, as not many employers trust people who have been suffering from alcohol or drug addiction.
This can be problematic, because constant rejection can turn into frustration, taking the person back to his addiction. Hence, it becomes the counselor's duty to help the patient find employment.

Community Service

Apart from treating addicts, he also has the responsibility of educating other people in the community about the physical as well as psychological problems caused by substance addiction. The counselor works in schools, colleges, universities, and other such places to help them understand the importance of staying away from alcohol and drugs.

Educational Qualifications and Other Skills

The minimum qualification required by a substance abuse counselor is a bachelor's degree and a license to practice the profession. One can become a counselor by completing a certificate course in drug and alcohol counseling. Many counseling centers as well as hospitals require people who have completed their master's degree in social work, arts or science.
Apart from the educational qualifications, it is also important for an individual to have certain skills. The individual should have a strong desire to help people who are suffering from the problem of alcohol or drug abuse.
For the patient to recover completely from his addiction, it is important that he opens up to the counselor about his problems. Hence, it is extremely crucial to gain the confidence, respect, and trust of the patient. Also, the counselor should make sure that the things said by the patient are kept confidential.
A very important thing that the counselors should learn is to keep an emotional distance from their patients. Although empathy towards an addict is very important, getting emotionally involved with the patient can become problematic for the counselor as well as the patient.