Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor: Job Description and Requirements

Licensed drug and alcohol counselors are professionally trained to assist people in overcoming substance abuse problems. A strong desire to help others and ability to withstand emotional stress are necessary ingredients for success in this career.

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Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor Job Description

Licensed drug and alcohol counselors deal with individuals who may be addicted to alcohol and/or prescription or illegal drugs. They may provide counseling to addicts as a stand-alone therapy, as well as during or after rehabilitation treatment. Often, addicts are counseled in groups, but individual counseling sessions may also be offered.

Counselors monitor their clients' progress by taking notes and making reports throughout the course of treatment. Because substance abuse problems affect more than just the individual, counselors may also provide support to friends and family members. They may work with other health care professionals to determine the optimal treatment plan and find ongoing support for an addict upon release from treatment, such as a 12-step program.

Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor Requirements

While mental health counselors in general need to possess at least a master's degree in order to become licensed, licensure for drug and alcohol counselors depends on the state. Some states may only require a high school education and certification. The National Board for Certified Counselors offers the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential, as well as specialty certifications such as the Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) credential (

To earn the NCC credential, candidates must complete a certain amount of relevant coursework, pass an exam and possess counseling experience. For the MAC credential, candidates must first already have earned the NCC credential and then complete coursework, pass an exam and possess counseling experience relevant to the topic of addiction.

Even if postsecondary education is not required for licensure in one's chosen state, it is a good foundation from which to start a counseling career. Colleges offer certificate and associate degree programs in substance abuse counseling, which may include courses in the science of addiction, sociology and general counseling. For those who wish to pursue additional education, earning a bachelor's or master's degree in psychology may be a helpful option to consider.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling positions were predicted to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 31% between 2012 and 2022. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors made a mean yearly wage of $41,090 in May 2013.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics