Mapping Your Future logo

Career Profile: 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.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 327,500 people employed as substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in the United States. The median annual salary is $47,700. Entry level employees earn approximately $30,590 per year and senior employees earn approximately $78,700 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Conduct chemical dependency program orientation sessions.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
327,500
Annual Openings:
41,000
Increase in Openings by 2030:
23%
Annual Salary Range:
$30,590 - $78,700
Education Requirements:
Bachelor's degree