Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

Substance Abusers Need Counseling

When it comes to people who have problems with drugs and alcohol, substance abuse counselors can help. Through individual and group counseling sessions, they guide people to acknowledge their destructive behaviors and understand how their problems are a result of their addiction. Substance abuse counselors assist in the development of individualized recovery programs that are meant to equip abusers with coping skills and the re-establishment of healthy behaviors. Along with abusers themselves, counselors work with their families who are often greatly affected by their loved one’s actions. They can also develop community programs and outreaches that educate the public on the dangers of addiction and how to prevent it.

Substance abuse counselors also work with inmates, parolees, and offenders who are on probation, and provide them with assessments, training, education, and treatment. They help these offenders by reviewing, assessing, and implementing drug and alcohol screenings, as well as treatment programs. Counselors also schedule and conduct drug screenings and send the results to probation officers. And when it comes to deciding if an offender needs to continue with a drug or alcohol program, counselors provide significant input that can ensure that the right decision is made.

While the qualifications of a substance abuse counselor can vary by state, it is likely that one will need a bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology, or social work. Those who want to be a counselor in this field would most likely find it helpful to complete course work in crisis intervention, substance abuse counseling, program evaluation, records management, and research methods. A certification in substance abuse counseling can also be earned through state addiction professional certification boards. Most of these boards require that applicants have completed some degree of education and worked a certain amount of hours in a related field. Those interested in working in the area of parole and probation will probably need to have a year or more experience working in drug treatment, or group and individual counseling.

Substance abuse counselors need to be prepared to work in dangerous environments and situations, as they work with unpredictable people who are experiencing severe problems. Work opportunities are available in hospitals, correctional institutions, mental health agencies, de-toxification centers, private practices, and addiction treatment centers. Due to the seriousness of their work and the emergencies that can occur, many of these facilities are open 24 hours a day. Counselors should be prepared to work nights, weekends, and holidays, during 40 hour work weeks.

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