Substance Abuse Counselor

Call 888-659-0350
any time to discuss treatment options

Qualifications of a Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance Abuse Counselor Qualifications

It’s important for your substance abuse counselor to have the right qualifications.

Becoming a counselor is not easy, and the substance abuse counselor qualifications are many: it take years of schooling and training, and it requires a strong knowledge in a specific area. The job is both challenging and rewarding, and it takes great desire and motivation for a substance abuse counselor to get to that position. Whether you’re an aspiring substance abuse counselor or someone who is thinking of checking into treatment, learning about what it takes to become a counselor can give you a better understanding of what it takes to become a good counselor, and what a patient can and should expect from a mental health professional.

Educational and Training Qualifications of a Substance Abuse Counselor

The necessary education, licensing, and training qualifications of a substance abuse counselor vary from state to state. In general, though, a mental-health-related degree is required, along with a certain amount of supervised experience in a counseling setting.


Varied Educational Levels for Substance Abuse Counselors

Depending on where he practices, a substance abuse counselor may need an Associate’s Degree, a Bachelor’s Degree, or a graduate degree in order to legally become a licensed counselor. There is no set degree path that one can take to become a substance abuse counselor, but there are certain subjects and courses that will apply more directly to this field. Potential counselors should study psychology, sociology, and other counseling and mental-health-related subjects. Substance abuse counselor qualifications stipulate that a counselor should understand and treat both the mental and physical aspects of substance abuse, so studying biology, physiology, or related subjects is also recommended.


Certification is usually recommended, but not always required, in order to become a counselor. Again, state laws may vary, but many people opt to go for their Master’s Degree and then get their certification in a chosen specialty field (such as substance abuse counseling) after graduating. Though it’s not always one of the necessary qualifications of a substance abuse counselor, additional certification may be a great indicator of a counselor’s skills and motivation to succeed.


This is something that comes with time, but even a novice substance abuse counselor must undergo a period of training and skills-building; new graduates are not simply thrust into an office to listen to patients. After receiving a degree and fulfilling all educational requirements, graduates are required to have a certain number of hours (usually a few thousand) of supervised work in a substance-abuse-related setting, acquired over a period of no less than 24 months, before becoming a licensed substance abuse counselor.

Other Substance Abuse Counselor Qualifications

Schooling and training is undoubtedly necessary. But in order to succeed, there are other, intangible substance abuse counselor qualifications that one should possess. These come in the form of certain personality traits and a strong desire to succeed with patients. Below is a list of a few of the qualities that make for a great substance abuse counselor:Substance Abuse Counselors help others

  • a desire to help others
  • being a good listener
  • being careful and conscientious with research and documentation
  • having confidence in oneself
  • being able to inspire and motivate

Because counseling focuses so much on each individual patient, a counselor must have the ability to sympathize and empathize, while understanding the differences between patients and situations and being able to adapt a treatment plan accordingly. This is a skill that can’t necessarily be taught in school, so certain personality traits and inclinations may allow a counselor to be more successful at getting through to his patients.

Why Should You Care About Substance Abuse Counselor Qualifications?

Both aspiring counselors and their future patients should be interested in learning about these substance abuse counselor qualifications. Patients should understand the incredible time and energy commitment that counselors go through in order to get to where they are. Going to counseling is not about simply telling your problems to a stranger. It’s about getting support from someone who genuinely wants to help you. These qualifications of a substance abuse counselor are there to ensure that only the best care is made available to the people who really need it, and by understanding what makes for a great substance abuse counselor, you can feel confident that your counselor is just as invested as you are in your success during recovery.