top of page

Do You Have What It Takes to Become An Addiction Counsellor?

Around 19.7 million Americans battle a drug or alcohol addiction.

This is probably why the job outlook for addiction counsellors is on the rise at a projected growth of 23 percent for the next 10 years, which is much higher than the national average.

Interested in becoming an addiction counsellor? Let’s find out what it takes to be a successful drug and alcohol counsellor!

What Does an Addiction Counsellor Do?

Addiction (or substance abuse) counsellors help assess and follow treatment plans for clients with an addiction issue. All patients are different, so the counsellor needs to work with each individual to help customize treatment plans.

Counsellors meet regularly with clients to help them as they recover and also work with individuals facing a crisis.

Addiction counsellors teach their clients to change their beliefs and attitudes. They also help addicts overcome healthier mechanisms. Many addicts will relapse, so addiction counsellors need to work clients long after they recover from the initial addiction.

Other duties include:

  • Identifying issues and create goals and treatment plans

  • Referring clients to various support groups

  • Leading therapy sessions both group and individual

  • Helping clients find a job or career

  • Update reports for the courts

  • Meeting with family members for support and also guidance

Counsellors can also arrange medical interventions and other long-term addiction management support for family and addict.

Valuable Skills for an Addiction Counsellor

Because you will be dealing with some difficult situations, it’s important to have some various personality traits in order to succeed with patients.

Here are a few characteristics that make a good substance abuse counsellor:

  • Good listener

  • Strong desire to help others

  • Confidence

  • Motivation

  • Inspiration

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Respect privacy

Counsellors deal with individuals facing different circumstances and various backgrounds. A good counsellor can empathize and sympathize with each patient to better understand the differences each patient is facing. You can’t learn most of these personality traits in school.

You will develop relationships with your clients. At times, you may have to go above and beyond to help them. You have to know your boundaries, so you don’t enable behaviours.

It is very important that you are non-judgmental and do not criticize mistakes in a client’s past. You want your clients to be open with you and feel like they can approach you even if they have a relapse. Good addiction counsellors build a trusting relationship with clients.

You will also need to know how to handle stress. Addiction counsellors have a high rate of job burnout because of the difficulty in their work. Clients can relapse multiple times.

You will need to know how to manage this stress and not let it get you down. Addiction counsellors can easily develop depression. Good life and work balance are necessary for the field of addiction.

Research skills are also important. Addiction counsellors use research to incorporate theories and data into practice.

Counsellors with Past Addictions

If you have experienced addiction in your life and are in recovery, you may be able to really connect to other clients in a way some counsellors cannot. It can be really beneficial for someone to talk to a counsellor that truly understands what he or she is going through.

You may also be able to provide some valuable insight from your experience. In order to be a counsellor, you have to make sure that you will not relapse. It may be difficult for some people to be around others with addiction problems, so really think about your situation and how you will cope.

Education and Training

The needed training, education, and license for a substance abuse counsellor vary between states. You will need a mental-health degree some supervised experience with counselling.

You will need the following to be a substance abuse counsellor:

  • Accredited education

  • Supervised clinical hours

  • Felony and child abuse background check

  • Passing score on a licensing or certification exam


You may need different levels of degrees depending on where you practice. Some settings require only an Associate degree while most require a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, or even a Doctorate degree. You should look for programs in sociology, psychology, or counselling.

You need to be able to understand the physical and mental effects of substance abuse. There are some programs that are specific to addiction counselling.


You may not need a certification if you have a Master’s degree but it is usually recommended. Certification can show your skills and motivation to succeed when you are looking for a job.


You will need the experience to help you learn your skills. This comes with time. After you get your degree and/or educational requirements, you are required to fulfill a certain number of hours of supervised work in a counselling setting.

After you complete your supervised training, you will become a licensed substance abuse counsellor.

Career Paths

You have to decide what career path you want before choosing your degree and certification. If you have a Master’s degree, you may be able to more places including private practice.

You can also choose to specialize as much as you want. You can choose a certain type of addiction or demographic. Addiction counsellors work in the following settings:

  • Individual and family services

  • Local and state governments

  • Hospitals

  • Outpatient recovery centres

  • Residential mental health abuse centres

If you want to work with teenagers or children, you could work for an after-school program or even at a school or university. This is why it’s important to figure out your career path to help guide your education, training, specialization, and certification.

Appears originally on


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page