Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
Counsel and advise individuals with alcohol, tobacco, drug, or other problems, such as gambling and eating disorders. May counsel individuals, families, or groups or engage in prevention programs.
Sample of reported job titles: Addictions Counselor, Case Manager, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADAC), Chemical Dependency Counselor (CD Counselor), Chemical Dependency Professional, Clinical Counselor, Counselor, Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist (DATS), Prevention Specialist, Substance Abuse Counselor (SA Counselor)
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Tasks | Technology Skills | Tools Used | Knowledge | Skills | Abilities | Work Activities | Detailed Work Activities | Work Context | Job Zone | Education | Credentials | Interests | Work Styles | Work Values | Related Occupations | Wages & Employment | Job Openings | Additional Information
- Complete and maintain accurate records or reports regarding the patients’ histories and progress, services provided, or other required information.
- Counsel clients or patients, individually or in group sessions, to assist in overcoming dependencies, adjusting to life, or making changes.
- Assess individuals’ degree of drug dependency by collecting and analyzing urine samples.
- Follow progress of discharged patients to determine effectiveness of treatments.
- Conduct chemical dependency program orientation sessions.
- Review and evaluate clients’ progress in relation to measurable goals described in treatment and care plans.
- Coordinate activities with courts, probation officers, community services, or other post-treatment agencies.
- Develop client treatment plans based on research, clinical experience, and client histories.
- Modify treatment plans to comply with changes in client status.
- Coordinate counseling efforts with mental health professionals or other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, or social workers.
- Plan or implement follow-up or aftercare programs for clients to be discharged from treatment programs.
- Intervene as an advocate for clients or patients to resolve emergency problems in crisis situations.
- Attend training sessions to increase knowledge and skills.
- Interview clients, review records, and confer with other professionals to evaluate individuals’ mental and physical condition and to determine their suitability for participation in a specific program.
- Instruct others in program methods, procedures, or functions.
- Participate in case conferences or staff meetings.
- Act as liaisons between clients and medical staff.
- Provide clients or family members with information about addiction issues and about available services or programs, making appropriate referrals when necessary.
- Train or supervise student interns or new staff members.
- Counsel family members to assist them in understanding, dealing with, and supporting clients or patients.
- Confer with family members or others close to clients to keep them informed of treatment planning and progress.
- Develop, implement, or evaluate public education, prevention, or health promotion programs, working in collaboration with organizations, institutions, or communities.
- Supervise or direct other workers providing services to clients or patients.
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- Analytical or scientific software — Statistical software
- Calendar and scheduling software — Scheduling software
- Data base user interface and query software — Database software ; EAG Economic Analysis Group CaseTrack; Online informational database software
- Electronic mail software — Email software; IBM Lotus Notes; Microsoft Outlook
- Internet browser software — Web browser software
- Medical software — Addison Health Systems WritePad EMR Systems; Athena Software Penelope Case Management; STI Computer Services ChartMaker; Varian Medical Systems (see all 14 examples)
- Office suite software — Microsoft Office
- Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint
- Project management software — Practice Technology Prevail
- Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
- Word processing software — Microsoft Word
Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.
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- Therapy and Counseling — Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
- Psychology — Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
- Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
- Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
- English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- Administrative — Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
- Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
- Sociology and Anthropology — Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures, and their history and origins.
- Philosophy and Theology — Knowledge of different philosophical systems and religions. This includes their basic principles, values, ethics, ways of thinking, customs, practices, and their impact on human culture.
- Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
- Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
- Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
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- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
- Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
- Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Persuasion — Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
- Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
- Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
- Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
- Negotiation — Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
- Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
- Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
- Management of Personnel Resources — Motivating, developing, and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job.
- Time Management — Managing one’s own time and the time of others.
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- Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
- Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
- Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
- Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
- Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
- Time Sharing — The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information (such as speech, sounds, touch, or other sources).
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- Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
- Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
- Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
- Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Communicating with People Outside the Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
- Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
- Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
- Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
- Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Performing for or Working Directly with the Public — Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Providing Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
- Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
- Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
- Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
- Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- Performing Administrative Activities — Performing day-to-day administrative tasks such as maintaining information files and processing paperwork.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Selling or Influencing Others — Convincing others to buy merchandise/goods or to otherwise change their minds or actions.
- Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
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Detailed Work Activities
- Maintain client records.
- Write reports or evaluations.
- Counsel clients or patients with substance abuse issues.
- Monitor clients to evaluate treatment progress.
- Administer drug screening tests.
- Collaborate with other professionals to assess client needs or plan treatments.
- Develop treatment plans for patients or clients.
- Modify treatment plans to accommodate client needs.
- Intervene in crisis situations to assist clients.
- Interview clients to gather information about their backgrounds, needs, or progress.
- Maintain professional social services knowledge.
- Train staff members in social services skills.
- Advocate for individual or community needs.
- Present social services program information to the public.
- Refer clients to community or social service programs.
- Supervise workers providing client or patient services.
- Confer with family members to discuss client treatment plans or progress.
- Counsel family members of clients or patients.
- Collaborate with other professionals to develop education or assistance programs.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of counseling or educational programs.
- Plan programs to address community health issues.
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- Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 100% responded “Every day.”
- Contact With Others — 93% responded “Constant contact with others.”
- Telephone — 93% responded “Every day.”
- Face-to-Face Discussions — 81% responded “Every day.”
- Work With Work Group or Team — 81% responded “Extremely important.”
- Electronic Mail — 75% responded “Every day.”
- Time Pressure — 66% responded “Every day.”
- Deal With External Customers — 48% responded “Extremely important.”
- Importance of Repeating Same Tasks
- Spend Time Sitting — 90% responded “More than half the time.”
- Responsible for Others’ Health and Safety — 46% responded “High responsibility.”
- Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People — 40% responded “Every day.”
- Coordinate or Lead Others — 61% responded “Very important.”
- Structured versus Unstructured Work — 52% responded “Some freedom.”
- Letters and Memos — 40% responded “Every day.”
- Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 27% responded “Extremely important.”
- Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 60% responded “High responsibility.”
- Freedom to Make Decisions — 48% responded “Some freedom.”
- Frequency of Conflict Situations — 29% responded “Every day.”
- Public Speaking — 57% responded “Every day.”
- Deal With Physically Aggressive People — 47% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Physical Proximity — 38% responded “Slightly close (e.g., shared office).”
- Exposed to Disease or Infections — 33% responded “Never.”
- Consequence of Error — 38% responded “Serious.”
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|Title||Job Zone Five: Extensive Preparation Needed|
|Education||Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master’s degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).|
|Related Experience||Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of college and an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to be able to do their job.|
|Job Training||Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.|
|Job Zone Examples||These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Examples include pharmacists, lawyers, astronomers, biologists, clergy, neurologists, and veterinarians.|
|SVP Range||(8.0 and above)|
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Percentage of Respondents
|Education Level Required|
|24||High school diploma or equivalent
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Interest code: SAI Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
- Social — Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.
- Artistic — Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.
- Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
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- Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others’ needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
- Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
- Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
- Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
- Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
- Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
- Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
- Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
- Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
- Independence — Job requires developing one’s own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
- Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
- Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
- Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
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- Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
- Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
- Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
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Wages & Employment Trends
Median wage data for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.
Employment data for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.
Industry data for Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.
|Median wages (2020)||$22.91 hourly, $47,660 annual|
|Employment (2020)||327,500 employees|
|Projected growth (2020-2030)||Much faster than average (15% or higher)|
|Projected job openings (2020-2030)||41,000|
|Top industries (2020)||
Health Care and Social Assistance
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 wage data and 2020-2030 employment projections . “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.
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Job Openings on the Web
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Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
- Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network
- American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- American Correctional Association
- American Counseling Association
- American Psychological Association
- Association for Addiction Professionals
- Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
- Employee Assistance Professionals Association
- International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium
- International Profession Certification Association
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Association of Social Workers
- National Board for Certified Counselors
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors
- Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association
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