Why You Should Become a Substance Use Counselor

Why You Should Become a Substance Use Counselor

Substance use counselors are in demand. So if you’re you looking for a new and rewarding profession consider addiction counseling —a fulfilling career.

Substance use counselors help those struggling with addiction. Addiction is a disease that affects both the person who struggles with it and their loved ones.

If you are interested in working with individuals who have a severe dependency on drugs and substances, then choosing a career in addiction counseling may be a great option for you. Working in the field empowers you to work directly with individuals with substance use disorders.

Surprisingly, it is a great time to walk around this career, as The demand for qualified certified addiction counselors continues to rise. According to the US Bureau of Labor, job growth for substance use counselors is expected to grow 23 percent within the next 10 years, considerably much faster than the average for all professions.

 

Substance use counselor facilitating an addiction recovery group counseling session

What a Substance Use Counselor Does

Addiction counselors help people struggling with addictions, such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs like heroin. In order to assess their mental health, physical health, and readiness for change, they assist their clients through all phases of treatment. 

It is not an easy job to be a substance abuse counselor. You must have the emotional, mental, and professional strength to deal with complex and critical scenarios that are unique to each individual client. You must always remember each client’s struggle with addiction is unique to them. 

Stigma is when someone views another person in a negative way because of a mental health disorder or a substance use disorder. This can be from another person or from within the person themselves. You must be willing to establish rapport with each client. Many clients find it difficult to open up about their hardships. However, when addiction counselors build rapport and trust clients become forthcoming about their problems and hardships. Once the client-counselor relationship is established progress begins and the counselor can support clients on their road to recovery.

Addiction counselors must always strive to ‘do no harm’ while working in the field. This code of ethics guides how they interact with clients, co-workers, and the public. The first action all addiction professionals should strive towards is reducing the harm of a client’s substance use disorder. In substance use treatment, clinicians no longer demand complete abstinence from clients. Instead, they suggest strategies of harm reduction to keep clients in the earliest stages of recovery safe and healthy.

After building rapport and a harm reduction plan, substance use counselors begin to identify the root causes of addiction and develop a recovery treatment plan. A treatment plan establishes a list of goals the client feels will help them achieve the goals they seek.

People struggling with addiction often have an intense focus on using that substance, to the point where they can’t function in day-to-day life.

Substance use disorder is a serious condition in which someone’s life becomes impaired as a result of using substances. SAMHSA defines substance use disorder as “the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.” People struggling with addiction often have an intense focus on using that substance, to the point where they can’t function in day-to-day life. They keep using it even when they know it’s causing problems in all areas of their lives.

The treatment plan will consist of changes a client chooses to make in many areas of their life such as:

  • substance use
  • medication management
  • physical health
  • mental health
  • social situations
  • family, significant others, peers
  • emotional needs
  • work, school, hobbies
  • probation, parole, or other criminals charges
  • readiness for change
  • and more

The substance use counselor will help clients find coping techniques to deal with triggers and urges, and small steps to take in order to achieve the goals found in the treatment plan. The ultimate aim is for the client to understand why certain situations or specific behaviors trigger the recurrence of use (relapse) or impede their recovery process.

Clinicians do not only interact with their clients. At times working closely with a client’s family and significant others repair the trust that was lost due to addiction. 

Addiction counselors also have to organize educational or informative group sessions which help clients and their families to learn more about addiction and substance use behaviors.  Most importantly when facilitating group recovery sessions clients relearn how to interact with others in social settings. Individual and Group therapy sessions include strategies to control destructive behavior or behavioral disorders.

Substance use counselor practicing an individual session with a client for her online CASAC training
Substance use counselor in a mock session for his addiction counseling certificate

Substance Use Counselor’s Requirements and Skills 

 

If you are looking for a career in substance use counseling you should know that each workday is different., challenging, and fulfilling. Even though you’re bound by a code of ethics and core concepts you’ll still allow being creative when suggesting steps your clients can take to achieve their recovery goals.

To become a substance abuse counselor, individuals will generally need to obtain a formal education, often in the form of a substance use counselor certification program. In the US each state’s addiction recovery governing board or licensing agency establishes the requirements needed to become a substance use counselor. For example, in NYS the governing board is OASAS and they require individuals to complete a 350-hour education and training certificate program. Educational Enhancement CASAC online offers the 350-hour education and training program in a self-directed online format. You can study when you want and where you want to. 

Along with the educational requirements, many states require a certain amount of work experience hours and a passing grade on the IC & RC certification exam.

Many people find that after completing a short internship (30-90 days) they begin receiving fair wages for their work. This is especially true if you are working for a substance use treatment program, which will receive weekly supervision and guidance so you can succeed in the addiction recovery field.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the qualities of substance use counselors

  • Active listening – a technique in which the therapist makes good eye contact with the client and pays attention to their verbal and nonverbal messages. This allows for a better understanding of what the client is saying.
  • Empathy – to understand your client’s perspective; and respect and hold this perspective in high regard.  in doing this client will feel understood and heard. Empathy along with compassion most often strengthens the counseling relationship
  • Compassion– showing them that you are truly concerned for their pain or distress and I want to soothe their suffering.
the dalai lama

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
–Dalai Lama 

  • Patience – respect your clients and understand their limitations and boundaries. Expressing patience shows your willingness to trust the clinical process and suppress your feelings of eagerness or annoyance when change doesn’t manifest as fast as you like. Treating them while keeping those boundaries.
  • Open-mindedness – is a clinical quality that enables you to think critically and rationally from the perspective of your client. When you are open-minded you can step out of your comfort zone and consider the ideas of others instead of being judgmental and biased about your client’s ideas and situations. Open-mindedness allows you to recognize your judgments and bias toward situations so you can keep these attributes from sabotaging the clinical relationship.
  • Confidentiality– keeping clients’ private information confidential. Once you establish a therapeutic relationship it’s important to keep it safe. Confidentiality allows your clients to feel safe and protected than what they tell you during sessions remains within the room and protected by the rapport between the client and the counselor.
  • Authenticity – being genuine and honest with clients during the treatment process. In addiction counseling, it’s important to have a down-to-earth attitude, so clients feel they’re interacting with real people instead of an educated professional playing a role.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have these qualities because each one can be cultivated and learned, so you can find a sense of purpose in helping others achieve freedom from their substance use disorder.

Conclusion

Let’s recap what we discussed in this blog post to stress the importance and need for substance use counselors.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for substance abuse counselors will grow 23 percent in the next 10 years. This is considerably much faster than the average for all professions.  Successful substance use counselors are enthusiastic about guiding people struggling with addiction. Each day brings new situations, crises, and challenges to overcome, which provide fulfillment and satisfaction in your work.  When considering the idea of addiction counseling, you should know that you’ll cultivate both emotional and cognitive attributes to be effective.

Lastly, you will have to obtain an education and training certificate. Addiction counseling online training allows anyone to complete the program and make a schedule that fits their needs. You’ll never have to show up at a school or a webinar at a specific time. Instead, you’ll have the option to create your schedule for learning and studying. You can jump into training when you have a free-time at work or school, read assignments during your commute to work and on breaks, and never miss a meal with your family. 

Educational Enhancement CASAC Online empowers you to fit your substance use counseling study into your current schedule where you want to. It doesn’t matter if it’s late in the evening or 2:30 in the morning.  Educational is an OASAS-approved education and training provider (#0415.)

Once you finish your education and training, you’ll receive a certificate to submit to your licensing board you can start working in the field. You’ll be a credentialed addiction counseling professional once you have earned enough work experience hours and passed the IC &RC exam. In NYS, this certificate is referred to as a CASAC (Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor)

So do you think you have what it takes to jump into a rewarding career as a substance use counselor?

Free guide to addiction counselor (CASAC) credentialing

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Be the CHANGE we Need!

 

Online addiction counseling training is an excellent option for people seeking to change their careers, stay-at-home moms, and many more addiction counseling career seekers. Educational Enhancement CASAC Online training provides the best education and training combination. Depending on how ambitious you are, you can finish the 350-hour program in as little as 4 months, but most students complete the program and start working in the field in 6 months.

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