Career Path Options for a Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Points of Interest

In 2004, counselors held around 601,000 job positions. Employment between these counselors was among specialties such as 1). Vocational, educational, and school counselors totaling 248,000 2). Mental health counselors totaling 96,000 3). Rehabilitation counselors totaling 131,000 4). Marriage and family therapist totaling 24,000 counselors 5) behavioral disorder counselors totaling 76,000 counselors, and all the other 25,000 counselors that made up vocational, educational and school counselors work mostly in secondary and elementary schools, universities, and colleges. Other varieties of counselors work in a various private and public realms, including job training, health care facilities, vocational rehabilitation centers, correctional institutions, social agencies, residential care institutions such as group home for the elderly, children and disabled, and halfway houses for the criminal offenders.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors – Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor’s aide people who have problems with gambling, alcohol, drugs, and eating disorders. They give counseling to individual to help them determine which problems and behaviors are related to their addiction. Individual counseling can be perform but typically group setting is practices and can include drop-in counseling supports, daily or weekly counseling, or crisis counseling. Counselors are given training to aid in developing customized recovery programs that help individuals gain coping strategies and establish health behaviors.

Some behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors work in therapeutic communities in which addicts reside while going through treatment. Counselor can also work within organizations for the improvement of communities and social change, alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, and local and state governmental agencies. A growing number of counselors are self-employed and work in private or group practices because of the increased awareness that counselors are effective, well-trained professional and new laws permitting counselors to be paid for services by insurance companies.

Nature of work

Substance abuse counselors aid those who have problems with alcohol or drugs. They give counseling to former and current addicts. They are also known to be involved in crisis intervention circumstances. They help friends and family members who lives are affected by those addicted to drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse counseling is thought of as the most challenging human/social field service.

These counselors do not supply psychological therapy. They typically work under the supervision of social workers, physicians and psychologists. Substance abuse counselors work in settings such as treatment centers, halfway houses and outpatient clinic. There are a number of substance abuse counselors who also work in hospitals. Their clients are often made up those with emotional disorders, AIDS, or the homeless.

During on-on-one or group sessions, clients are given the opportunity to talk about their problems and situations and are offered techniques and strategies to help them deal with issues. Usually, counselors aid with the practical parts of the client’s lives such as helping them to find a job. They often steer people to organizations that can help them such as vocational training centers, welfare services, family agencies, and food pantries.

Their Responsibilities Include:

  • Creating plans for clients
  • Analyzing and reviewing the client’s progress
  • Giving helpful information on useful services
  • Maintaining the clients records
  • Consulting with additional professional about the client
  • Participating in staff meetings
  • Sharing important information with family and friends of client
  • Crisis intervention involvements

Training, Qualifications, and Advancement

Although there are often on-the-job training opportunities, some employers desire candidates that hold a bachelor’s degree or above in sociology, psychology, or a related subject in addition to two years of counseling in a similar field or equal life experience such as performing volunteer work or being a former drug addicted person. There are large amounts of colleges that offer associate degree programs for counselors that take a duration of two years to finish. These programs give instruction in alcohol and drugs awareness. Some training programs offer programs in crisis intervention.

The criterion for license requirements varies by state. Candidates are only required to hold a certification and high school diploma in some cases. The National Board offers a general practice Credential of National Certification Counselor for Certified Counselors. State licensing and national certification are distinct from one another. The board also offers a specialty certification in additction counseling.


There are currently over twenty million Americans that are classified with drug and alcohol dependency every year. There is more than 9% of the population that look for treatment and counseling for their substance abuse.

Substance abused counseling, which is also known as behavioral disorder counseling deal with individuals who are also likely to have mental or behavioral health issues that encompass Significant relapse rates. The following are some career setting that a substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselor is typically a part of:

  • In Half way house setting
  • In homeless shelters
  • In hospitals
  • In prisons and jails
  • In out patient and in patient therapies(includes group and individual)
  • In alcohol and drug treatment centers
  • In social welfare agencies
  • In community and state departments

Job Titles include:

  • Chemical Dependency Counselor
  • Addictions Counselor
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor
  • Case Manager
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
  • Chemical Dependency Professional
  • Clinical Counselor
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist
  • Assessment Specialist

Job Outlook and Projections

Substance abuse and behavioral counselor jobs are projected to grow at a much faster rate than other counselor occupations. Growth can be credited to more addicts obtaining treatment and a greater number of drug offenders being put in treatment programs as opposed to jail. There were around 83,000 behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors in 2006. The average annual earnings for behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors were $ 34,000 in 2006.

The highest 10% made over $ 52,340 and the lowest 10% made less that $ 22,600. Those who had experience and an associate degree or high school diploma could advance into jobs like a director of a halfway house. Counselors can also advance into positions such as administrators and supervisors within their agencies and in-group and private practices.

In 2008, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projected jobs for substance abuse counselors were expected to grow faster than other counseling occupations when measured against the national average. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicted a 21 percent increase through the year of 2018. This projected increase could be the result of the burn out felt amongst this counseling branch.

Many counselors work with patients that have high recidivism rates and patients dealing with AIDS, hepatitis, and homelessness. The annual average salary earned by substance abuse counselors was about $ 37,000 in 2008 and a higher rate for those who worked in government agencies and hospitals.

Wages and Earnings May 2009

  • In Vermont the average hourly wage was $ 19.69 the median was $ 18.43 the midrange was $ 15.50-$ 22.57. The average yearly wage was $ 40,960 the median was $ 38,330 the midrange was $ 32,230-$ 46,950.
  • In Burlington South/Burlington MSA the average hourly wage was $ 17.84 the median was $ 17.04 the midrange was $ 14.49-$ 19.69. The average yearly wage was $ 37,110 the median salary was $ 35,350, the midrange salary was $ 30,140-$ 40,960.
  • In Southern Vermont/Balance of State the average hourly wage was $ 19.38 the median was $ 18.66, the midrange was $ 15.97- $ 22.22. The average yearly salary was $ 40,320, the median $ 38,820; the midrange salary was $ 33,210-$ 46,230. In Northern Vermont/Balance of State the average hourly wage was $ 24.17, the median wage was $ 22.17 the midrange wage was $ 16.67-$33.35. The average yearly salary was $ 15,270, the median salary was $ 46,110, and the midrange salary was $ 34,370-$ 69,370.

Related Occupations

  • Physical Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Child, Family, and School Social Workers
  • Social and Human Service Assistants
  • Residential Advisors
  • Recreational Therapists

Additional Sources