On the Job
Addictions counselors help people overcome alcohol, drug, gambling, and other dependencies.
Addiction is a disease. There are over 20 million people with drug or alcohol dependency in the United States. Current estimates suggest that one in three adults will experience serious problems associated with gambling addiction. Addiction is a large problem facing our nation.
People with addictions suffer emotionally, physically, and economically. It is the job of addictions counselors to help these people identify their problem behaviors and find ways to lead normal, healthy lives.
Addictions counselors help their clients change compulsive habits and learn new ways of coping with problems. They work with individuals and groups. They may help families learn how to deal with the emotional and social effects of addictions. Counselors teach family members how to provide support for the addict and for themselves.
Addiction counselors review records and interview clients. They may speak with doctors, family members, police, and other counselors to determine the client's condition and situation. The counselor and patient develop a therapy plan for recovery.
Counselors may refer patients to support services such as medical evaluation and treatment, social services, and employment services. They often refer addicts to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Counselors follow the patient's progress and may revise the therapy plan as needed. Addictions counselors prepare and maintain written records and case files.
Addictions counselors speak to groups concerned with drug and alcohol abuse and other addictions. They may prepare documents for presentation in court and accompany clients to legal proceedings.
Addictions counselors provide treatment in a variety of settings including hospitals, private and public treatment centers, private practice, and community-based behavioral health agencies.
Addictions counselors with advanced degrees and licenses can become program directors in hospitals, clinics, and other facilities. They may also run government health and human service agencies.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Counsel clients and patients, individually and in group sessions, to assist in overcoming dependencies.
- Develop client treatment plans based on research, clinical experience, and client histories.
- Interview client, review records, and talk with medical personnel to evaluate client's mental and physical condition.
- Determine client's treatment needs and which program is best.
- Review and evaluate client's progress and make changes to treatment as needed.
- Coordinate counseling efforts with other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and social workers.
- Make changes to treatment plans according to the needs and progress of the client.
- Make accurate records and reports about the client's history and progress.
- Provide information about addiction programs to clients and their families.
- Coordinate post-treatment activities, including follow-up care, court dates, community service, and probation requirements.
- Attend training sessions in order to increase knowledge and skills.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Assist and care for others.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Document and record information.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Process information.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Think creatively.
- Develop and build teams.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Analyze data or information.
- Work with the public.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Develop goals and strategies.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of social contact. They constantly work with clients and other health professionals.
- Communicate with coworkers and clients daily by telephone or in person.
- Are placed in conflict situations weekly and often deal with violent clients.
- Work well in teams and with groups of people. This is extremely important because counseling is often done in groups.
- Are responsible for clients' and coworkers' health and safety.
- Write letters, memos, and e-mails on a weekly basis.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by other counselors and therapists.
- Speak in front of groups on a regular basis.
- Mostly work indoors.
- Work close to clients, such as when sitting across from them in a meeting. May need to hold clients that become violent.
- May occasionally be exposed to diseases or infections through contact with clients.
- Have the potential to make serious mistakes that are difficult to correct. This is because they are working with another person's health.
- Must be somewhat exact in their work. This is especially important when keeping client records.
- Make decisions that strongly impact the lives of their clients.
- Rarely consult a supervisor before making decisions and set their own priorities and goals.
- Must meet strict deadlines weekly. It is important that counselors make the appointments they set with clients and staff.
- May repeat the same mental tasks.
- Generally have a set schedule each week.
- Work 40 hours a week.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit or stand for long periods of time.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.