What does a Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor do?

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  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2019
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A licensed substance abuse counselor seeks to help and support people who are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. Often, this help and support will also extend to the substance abuser’s family. A substance abuse counselor helps his client to recognize harmful behaviors and learn to overcome them. The counselor can also provide crisis counseling sessions and refer clients to agencies that can assist them in other areas. Different states may have different requirements for becoming a licensed substance abuse counselor, but many require a master’s degree in psychology or a related field.

While one of the rewards of being a licensed substance abuse counselor is seeing clients overcome addiction and live a substance abuse-free life, there are also several difficult downsides to the job. Many people who start in the field drop out due to the sometimes severe emotional demands. Counselors must be prepared to watch some of their clients slip back into addiction, go to jail, or even die. They also must be prepared to be exposed to the difficult and often sad situations that lead their clients to addiction.


In order to help people overcome addiction, a licensed substance abuse counselor may have group or individual sessions on a daily or weekly basis. He may also have to develop a personalized plan to help an abuser cope with his cravings and discontinue harmful behaviors. In addition, the counselor might offer crisis counseling, which is short term counseling that helps a person deal with traumatic issues.

In addition to counseling sessions, a licensed substance abuse counselor may need to help a client find assistance from other agencies. For example, if the abuser has a health problem, the counselor may refer him to a medical clinic. The counselor may also run drug tests and help to keep track of a client’s progress, as well as offering to help the client's family deal with the effects of substance abuse. In addition, the counselor may also seek to prevent substance abuse by educating the public.

The way to become a licensed substance abuse counselor varies by jurisdiction, although many places require a master's degree in a relevant field. In some areas, a certain amount of coursework and experience, with or without an college degree, is enough for a person to achieve a level of certification. Other areas require only a high school diploma, as well as certification. Since the requirements from each jurisdiction or state may differ, a person interested in the field should contact the appropriate authorities to find out more.


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