Addiction Counselor Jobs & Career Guide 2023

Search Addiction Counselor Jobs
Search thousands of addiction counselor and substance abuse jobs across the country.

>Or browse all of our addiction job listings

By Staff Writer
Our career guides are produced by staff writers in conjunction with our expert career coaches. We may earn a referral fee from some links to higher education providers but we remain committed to providing impartial guidance to further your career.

What is an addiction counselor?

An addiction counselor is a mental health professional who specializes in helping people overcome addictions to drugs, alcohol, or other substances. Addiction counselors work with individuals, families, and groups to identify the underlying causes of addiction and develop strategies to manage and overcome addictive behaviors.

What does an addiction counselor do?

Addiction counselors have several main responsibilities. One of their primary responsibilities is to conduct assessments of their clients to determine the extent and nature of their addiction. They may use interviews, questionnaires, or other assessment tools to gather information about a client’s substance use, mental health, and other factors that may be contributing to their addiction. Based on the results of these assessments, addiction counselors develop individualized treatment plans for their clients.

Another key responsibility of addiction counselors is to provide counseling and support to their clients throughout the recovery process. They may use a variety of counseling techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, or family therapy, to help clients overcome addiction and achieve their recovery goals.

Addiction counselors also provide education and resources to clients and their families about addiction, relapse prevention, and other related topics.

On the job, you can expect to:

  • Find options for addiction support groups and recommend them to their clientele.
  • If their client has a criminal record, they may be required to give updates on the individual’s progress in the program to a court.
  • Manage a group therapy session.
  • Give their clients healthy coping mechanisms to successfully traverse the difficulties of everyday life.
  • Evaluate their clients’ addiction problems and use that information to develop realistic goals and a treatment plan.
  • Get their clients back into the workforce.
  • Talk to their client’s support system (most likely family or friends) to give them guidance.
  • Create an aftercare plan, so their client is supported during their recovery.

“Being an addiction counselor can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s also challenging work. It requires a deep understanding of addiction and the ability to work with clients who may be resistant to change. It takes patience, empathy, and a willingness to meet clients where they are in their recovery journey. Addiction counseling can be emotionally taxing, but seeing clients successfully overcome addiction and achieve their recovery goals makes it all worth it.”

Dr. Sheila Vakharia, PhD, Deputy Director of the Department of Research and Academic Engagement at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Here is a typical daily schedule for an addiction counselor:

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM: Review and respond to any urgent emails or messages from clients or colleagues. Prepare for the day’s appointments.

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM: Conduct an initial assessment with a new client to determine the extent of their addiction and develop an individualized treatment plan.

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM: Facilitate a group counseling session for clients who are in the early stages of recovery.

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Meet with an individual client for a one-on-one counseling session to discuss their progress and challenges in overcoming addiction.

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: Take a break for lunch and attend to any administrative tasks, such as documenting client progress notes or scheduling appointments.

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Conduct a family therapy session with a client and their loved ones to address any family dynamics that may be contributing to the client’s addiction.

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Meet with a client to provide education and support for relapse prevention strategies.

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Collaborate with other mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists or social workers, to coordinate care for a client with co-occurring mental health disorders.

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Facilitate a support group session for clients who are in the maintenance phase of recovery.

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM: Wrap up any administrative tasks and prepare for the next day’s appointments.

Where does an addiction counselor work?

Addiction counselors are employed in a variety of settings, including:

  1. Substance abuse treatment facilities: Addiction counselors may work in residential or outpatient treatment centers that specialize in helping individuals overcome addiction.
  2. Mental health clinics: Addiction counselors may work in mental health clinics that offer counseling and support services to individuals with substance abuse and mental health disorders.
  3. Hospitals: Some hospitals may employ addiction counselors to provide counseling and support services to patients who are recovering from substance abuse or addiction.
  4. Educational institutions: Addiction counselors may work in universities or other educational institutions to provide counseling and support services to students who struggle with addiction.
  5. Government agencies: Addiction counselors may work for government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, providing counseling and support services to veterans who struggle with addiction.
  6. Private practice: Some addiction counselors may choose to work in private practice, offering counseling and support services to clients on a fee-for-service basis.

How to become an addiction counselor

It can take anywhere from 5-10 years to become an addiction counselor, depending on your educational path and the specific requirements in your state.

Obtain a bachelor’s degree

Addiction counselor positions require a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, counseling, or a related field. Some programs may offer a specialization in addiction counseling.

Obtain a master’s degree

Many addiction counseling positions require a master’s degree in counseling psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field. A master’s degree typically takes two to three years to complete and includes coursework in topics such as counseling theory, group counseling, family therapy, and substance abuse treatment.

Some master’s degree programs offer specializations in addiction counseling, which may include coursework in addiction-specific topics such as addiction theory, pharmacology, and relapse prevention. In addition to coursework, master’s degree programs typically include supervised clinical experience working with individuals with substance abuse or addiction issues.

Some states may require a master’s degree for licensure as an addiction counselor, while others may only require a bachelor’s degree. That being said, many organizations will (irrespective of state guidelines) likely favor candidates with a Master’s degree over applicants with a Bachelor’s degree.

Supervised experience

Many states require a certain number of supervised clinical hours working with individuals with substance abuse or addiction issues in order to become licensed as an addiction counselor. The amount of required clinical experience varies by state, but typically ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 hours.

Supervised clinical experience involves working under the guidance of a licensed and experienced addiction counselor or other mental health professional. The supervisor provides feedback, guidance, and support to help the trainee develop the skills and knowledge necessary to provide effective counseling and support to individuals with addiction.

During supervised clinical experience, trainees may work with clients one-on-one, facilitate group counseling sessions, conduct assessments, develop treatment plans, and provide education and support to clients and their families. The goal of supervised clinical experience is to provide trainees with hands-on experience working with clients and to ensure that they are prepared to provide effective counseling and support on their own.

Obtain certification

Certification is a voluntary process for addiction counselors, but many states and employers require or prefer that addiction counselors hold certification from a professional organization. Certification indicates that an addiction counselor has met certain education and training requirements and has demonstrated competency in the field of addiction counseling.

The main organization that offers certification for addiction counselors is the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC). To become certified by NAADAC, addiction counselors must meet certain education and training requirements, including completion of a minimum of 270 hours of addiction-specific education, at least six hours of ethics training, and at least 300 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, candidates must pass a certification exam and adhere to a code of ethics.

Obtain licensure

Licensure is required in some states for addiction counselors to practice independently.

In addition to meeting the above educational and experience requirements, licensure also requires adherence to a code of ethics and ongoing continuing education to maintain the license.

The licensing exam typically covers topics related to addiction counseling, such as screening and assessment, treatment planning, pharmacology, and relapse prevention. Some states may also require an additional exam covering state-specific laws and regulations related to addiction counseling.

It’s important to research the specific licensing requirements in your state or country and choose a program that meets those requirements. Some states may have different requirements for different levels of licensure, such as a licensed addiction counselor (LAC) or licensed professional counselor (LPC) with a specialization in addiction counseling.

Addiction Counselor Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for addiction counselors (which fall under the substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors category) is $47,660.

Here are the top 5 states for earnings as an addiction counselor, ranked by mean annual wage:

  1. California: $55,840
  2. New Jersey: $55,340
  3. Alaska: $53,400
  4. New York: $53,290
  5. Rhode Island: $50,900

Here are some ways addiction counselors can improve their earning potential:

Obtain additional education or certification

Pursuing advanced education such as a Ph.D. can increase an addiction counselor’s earning potential. Similarly, obtaining specialized certification in areas such as trauma-informed care or co-occurring disorders can demonstrate expertise and may lead to higher-paying job opportunities.

Gain experience in a specialized area

Specializing in a particular area of addiction counseling such as working with adolescents or treating opioid addiction can demonstrate expertise and lead to higher-paying job opportunities. Gaining experience in a specialized area can also increase an addiction counselor’s marketability to potential employers.

Seek employment in a high-demand area

Addiction counselors can improve their earning potential by seeking employment in areas where there is a high demand for their services. This could include working in areas with high rates of substance abuse or in areas with a shortage of addiction counselors. Additionally, working in higher-paying industries such as healthcare or government can increase an addiction counselor’s earning potential.

Get more salary insights in our addiction counselor salary guide

Latest Addiction Counselor Jobs & Career Guide 2023 Listings

Find More Addiction Counselor Jobs & Career Guide 2023
Position Company Location Posted
Part-time & Full-time Psychiatrists Vinfen Quincy, Massachusetts US 12/04/2023
Vinfen is hiring for Psychiatrists for Behavioral Health and Community Based Mental Health Programs Vinfen, the largest provider of community based clinical services in Massachusetts, is seeking Psychiatrists to provide consultation to our outpatient and community-based teams. The Psychiatrists will work with interdisciplinary teams to provide evidence-based outpatient, intensive home, and community-based services ... More
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Providence Anchorage, Alaska US 12/02/2023
Providence Alaska Medical Center is seeking a compassionate and board-certified Psychiatric nurse practitioner to join its team full-time. This role provides vital psychiatric services in an interdisciplinary setting as part of a substance use and co-occurring disorder treatment program. As such, you will be providing medication management services as well as mental health and substance use/misuse treatment to both adolescent and adult patients. This is an opportunity to join a dynamic behavioral ... More
Pediatric Neuropsychologist Providence Anchorage, Alaska 12/02/2023
Providence Medical Group is seeking a board-certified/board-eligible Pediatric Neuropsychologist for a full-time opportunity in Anchorage, Alaska. This is a great opportunity to join a growing Behavioral Mental Health team and work as a core member of a multi-disciplinary practice that includes mental health professionals, primary care providers, nursing staff, system-wide care and case management staff, pharmacists, and substance abuse specialists. In this position, you will be performing ... More
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Providence Anchorage, Alaska US 12/02/2023
Seeking a dynamic and dedicated nurse practitioner with Psychiatric training and experience. This part-time role provides Psychiatric services in an in-patient setting. Providence Alaska Medical Center and a well-respected Psychiatric practice invite you to join a dynamic Behavioral Health team that is dedicated to serving the community of Anchorage. Take advantage of this great opportunity to provide meaningful work and enjoy outstanding quality of life in the beautiful and welcoming city ... More
Clinical Supervisor 166945 West Newton, Massachusetts 11/30/2023
Clinical Supervisor Dorchester, MA Description TheClinical Supervisoris responsible for ensuring high quality clinical services that are rooted in a trauma-informed, harm reduction philosophy of care are being provided in the program. TheClinical Supervisorprovides clinical leadership and supervision, as well as training to the counseling staff in the ... More
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Needed for Locum Tenens Coverage at Facility in Palm Springs, California Locum Tenens California US 11/30/2023
Updated: Today Location(s): CA Job descriptionA comprehensive treatment center looking for locum tenens psych MD or AP onsite coverage.The facility is located in the Palm Springs/Desert Hot Springs of California region.The clinician is expected to have experience working in MAT and Addiction type settings and will cover Mon, Tues, and Wednesday's 630AM-130PM. There are no supervisory requirements or potential for an extension at this time either.Dates ... More
Addiction Psychiatrist Northwell Staten Island, New York 11/30/2023
The Behavioral Health Service Line is seeking a full time Addiction Psychiatrist to join our Chemical Dependency/Ancillary Withdrawal Program at Staten Island University Hospital.This high visibility position offers the right candidate an opportunity to work with a committed team of professionals to provide consults for the CATCH (Consults for Addiction Treatment and Care in Hospitals) team. The ideal candidate will be a Board Certified/Board Eligible Psychiatrist having completed ... More
Physician-in-Charge, Addiction Recovery Services (ARS) Program Director, Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship Northwell Queens, New York 11/30/2023
Physician-in-Charge, Addiction Recovery Services (ARS) Program Director, Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship Department of Psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital/Northwell Health The Department of Psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital (ZHH)/Northwell Health is seeking a BE/BC Addiction Psychiatrist to simultaneously serve as Physician-in-Charge of one of our five New York State Office of Addiction ... More
Find More Addiction Counselor Jobs & Career Guide 2023