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Career Profile: Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Why Is Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counseling a Job of Tomorrow?
Substance abuse has become all too common as people struggle with the stresses of everyday life. The demand for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors consequently remains high. Employment opportunities for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will see positive growth through 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors is $37,030.

What Does a Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Do?
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work with patients with addiction problems. Unlike mental health counselors and psychiatrists, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors do not deal with mental conditions like depression or mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Instead, they provide guidance to those looking to recover from an addiction. The types of addictions these counselors handle are greatly varied. Some patients may have a drug use problem, whether it is with illegal ones like cocaine, or legal prescription ones like painkillers, or even legal recreational substances such as cigarettes and alcohol. Counselors also handle patients who are addicted to certain activities, such as gambling. Eating disorders are also regularly managed by substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. Counselors typically assess each case individually and use talk therapy to treat the patients. Those in high risk situations, such as patients with severe eating disorders, may be placed under close medical surveillance. Counselors meet with patients at regular intervals to discuss their progress and try to uncover the root of the addiction, as well as implement ways of overcoming it, such as advising them to move into a rehabilitation center until recovery or to stay out of certain situations that ignite the unwanted behavior.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor?
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors must hold a master’s level degree in mental health counseling. Specific requirements for counselors vary among states, though prospective counselors should focus their classes on subjects that pertain to their field of study. For example, those looking to act as a counselor on drug abuse would take courses in drug abuse and withdrawal symptoms. Licensing requirements differ among states.

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