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Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor  What They Do

Just the Facts


Counsels and advises 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.

This career is part of the Human Services cluster Counseling and Mental Health Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Completes and maintains accurate records or reports regarding the patients' histories and progress, services provided, or other required information.
  • Counsels clients or patients, individually or in group sessions, to assist in overcoming dependencies, adjusting to life, or making changes.
  • Interviews clients, reviews records, and confers with other professionals to evaluate individuals' mental and physical condition and to determine their suitability for participation in a specific program.
  • Develops client treatment plans based on research, clinical experience, and client histories.
  • Reviews and evaluates clients' progress in relation to measurable goals described in treatment and care plans.
  • Intervenes as an advocate for clients or patients to resolve emergency problems in crisis situations.
  • Modifies treatment plans to comply with changes in client status.
  • Coordinates counseling efforts with mental health professionals or other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, or social workers.
  • Attends training sessions to increase knowledge and skills.
  • Participates in case conferences or staff meetings.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would sit most of the time. There's some walking and standing. You may have to lift and carry things like books, papers or tools weighing 10 lbs. or less.
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Irregular hours

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Behavior Therapist -- Treats mental illnesses by using a series of techniques used to modify behaviors by replacing them with new behaviors.
  • Domestic Violence Counselor -- Helps domestic violence victims cope with their situations.
  • Prevention Specialist -- Designs and implements prevention services, such as alcohol and drug, for schools, community groups, business and industry, parents, local government, the recovery community and private and public agencies and organizations.
  • Social Worker -- Helps individuals, couples, families, groups, communities and organizations develop the skills and resources they need to enhance social functioning and provide counseling, therapy and referral to other supportive social services.
  • Treatment Counselor -- Assesses psychological and sociological background of clients, contributes to the appropriate treatment plan and monitors client progress.