Career Spotlight: What do Behavioral Disorder Counselors do?

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Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Are you interested in helping to rehabilitate alcoholics or drug addicts? Have you been affected by alcoholism or addictions in your family and feel that you want to help others overcome their problems? Are you ready for a meaningful and rewarding career, but one which comes with a lot of stress and setbacks? Can you take it? Are you an angel on this earth? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may have what it takes for an intense career as a behavioral disorder counselor.

Behavioral disorder counselors help and advise people who suffer from, drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, or other addictions. They provide treatment and support to help their clients recover from addiction, and educate and instruct them in how to change their destructive behaviors.

Behavioral disorder counselors, also known as substance abuse counselors, can be a very rewarding career for the right person. Some say it is more of a calling than a career, and a good behavioral disorder counselor can literally save and heal lives. For each patient they help, they are literally also helping and saving that person’s family and friends from the pain of seeing their loved one self-destruct.

This career is listed as #38 of the top 100 jobs on U.S. News and World Report. It is certainly in demand. A good behavioral disorder counselor can be worth their weight in gold. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling jobs are growing faster than many other occupations according to the same source.

The main reason for the quick growth is the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that insurance providers cover treatment for mental health issues. Experts predict that as a result, there will be an influx in the number of people seeking this type of counseling.

Another factor is a change in how the justice system is dealing with drug offenders. Instead of jail time, many offenders are being handed out treatment-oriented sentences. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that over the next decade, nearly 30,0000 new counselor positions will need to be filled in order to meet the demand.

The median annual wage for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors was $38,520 in May 2012. Although, counselors in private practice can earn significantly more. Behavioral disorder counselors work in a wide variety of settings, including substance abuse centers, prisons, parole agencies, juvenile detention facilities and more. Some work in private practice. Please check out the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Outlook Handbook for more information about this highly rewarding career path.

How do I become a behavioral disorder counselor?

This depends on what type of setting you would like to work in, as well as where you live, as requirements will vary considerably by state.

In some limited settings, all that is required is a high school degree, certification and on-the-job-training. However, more opportunities will exist for professionals with specialized degrees.

If you are interested in working within the criminal justice system with would-be prisoners, an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice could be helpful. Please check out the Law and Criminal Justice Programs section on our site.

Other degrees to consider are a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Addictions and Mental Health.

Behavioral disorder counselors in private practice must be licensed and requirements vary by state, but all states require a Master’s degree and at least 2000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state exam and complete some continuing education each year.