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What is a Typical Day Like for a Substance Abuse Counselor?

substance abuse counselorThe daily structure of a substance abuse counselor's job is an ever-changing and vitally important roster of responsibility as steps are taken to guide people of all ages, ethnicity, and gender toward the ever-important place of recovery.

A combination of maintaining a healthy connection with clientele and the management of available resources makes a counselor the key to rebuilding lives.


Flexibility and Routine

Recently, broader understanding of the connection between mental and physical health–and proper daily management of that connection–has opened doors to creating a better path to success for substance abusers. Because each client's needs are different, this requires flexibility on the counselor's behalf. Depending on their qualifications and education, daily responsibilities for counselors might differ in range but the end goal remains the same: to have an opportunity at any time to change a person's life for the better.


There are always challenges in the work of a substance abuse counselor, but they are often worth the effort. There are daily tasks a counselor will perform according to their region's requirements, but the formation of a comprehensive schedule is formed with experience and time. A list of the major duties of a substance abuse counselor can be found at the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Identifying What is Needed and How To Get It

Depending on a counselor's qualifications, a work day could involve one or more of the following: Meeting with the client to evaluate their situation; reviewing and discussing a multifaceted treatment plan–this involves, among other things, helping the client identify behaviors or situations that hinder their recovery; and possibly referring them to other treatment options outside of the counselor's realm. A counselor's tactic needn't be limited to one-on-one meetings. Many will utilize group sessions to address these issues. Taking time in the week to develop or participate in outreach programs that enhance awareness of substance abuse can greatly improve a counselor's own understanding of the substance abuse community's needs.

Working With All Facets of Recovery

There is, as well, work with insurance companies and public assistance programs. When meeting with a client and trying to devise the best course of recovery, it is important to understand what resources within the recovery spectrum a client has available to them. Further into a client's progress, counselors may discuss options for rebuilding professional and personal relationships, help family members learn how to deal with the client's situation, and begin the process of helping the client transition back into the working and social worlds.

The Personal Component

Recovery is personal. The success of a client's recovery partially depends on their willingness to receive treatment; this can be a factor in how often consultations are held, or when they will need a counselor's help the most. Some forms of assessing and working with a client's participatory level are available here. Most importantly, it is the counselor's responsibility to individualize the treatment, to listen with compassion, and, through action taken, to assure the client that a solution is in sight. The day to day duties will become clearer with stronger mutual understanding, and with trust.

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