What it takes to work in alcohol and drug counselling

drugs and alcohol counselling

A career helping others to improve their lives is one that is incredibly enticing to many people.

drugs and alcohol counsellingWhether you’re considering social work, therapy or alcohol and drug counselling, there are a few things in common that you will need to know before getting into the field. 

Beyond all of the educational requirements and licensing, it’s also important to note that there are a fair few personal attributes that you will need to keep in mind too. These include having a rather resilient mind set and the ability to easily compartmentalise your work and personal life. You won’t be too surprised that things can become a little tough in the field of counselling. 

Added to this, to be successful in your career in counselling, and to help push your patients to combating their dependencies and issues with substance abuse, you will need to have the patience and drive to do your best to fight alongside them. 

Let’s take a look at what it takes to work in drug and alcohol counselling and what to consider when getting into the field. 

Gaining qualifications and experience

The first thing you will need to undertake is some form of counselling or social work course that specialises in the field of drug and alcohol counselling. You may want to consider something flexible such as a Train Smart course in which you will gain the experience and fundamentals of counselling. You can work toward gaining all the licenses and certifications needed to work with patients. 

From here, it is also suggested that you gain experience through third-party programmes, such as a volunteer programme. With these programmes you can enhance your skill set. When you hold all the relevant degrees, you are able to land a role sooner rather than later.

Depending on where you’re looking to work, there may be different educational and certification requirements. It’s always a good idea to look online for any information about working in a specific city or country. 

The tasks and duties to prepare for

To understand what it takes to work in the field, it’s good to consider what tasks you’ll be undertaking. These can include everything from providing support services to families all the way through to planning discussion settings and drafting recovery documentation and sheets. 

Some things to consider in the field include:

  • Visiting patients or clients in their homes to discuss treatment, or offer services
  • Assessing client requirements for recovery to adapt programs to suit their needs
  • Developing wide-reaching treatment and recovery plans
  • Undertaking call centre work 

Added to the above, you may also be required to work outside of your clinic or place of practice to offer support services. 

It is good to keep in mind that the workflows and requirements for your role will depend on the areas of counselling you work within, as well as your place of work. For example, call centre social services are going to be a little different to the more hands-on in-office services as well as the in-person and in-home solutions offered by many counselling service providers. 

Personal attributes to develop

As we outlined earlier, there are some personal attributes which may make your experience at finding a job much smoother. 

Of course, many people believe that empathy and similar attributes are something you are born with and cannot develop. But this is not the case. With a focus on understanding others and a drive to help with struggle and ailments, you can easily enhance your ability to understand and empathise with those struggling. 

The personal attributes outlined below are great to keep in mind when applying for roles in the field. Employers are always interested in social workers with the ability to be patient, empathise and be discreet with patient issues. 

Some attributes to develop and tout on your CV include: 


Without a doubt one of the more important skills to develop is your ability to understand and support those going through struggles. If you’re someone with high levels of empathy and you don’t let these affect your planning and treatment processes, you’re going to be in the green when it comes to working with your patients and also landing a job in the field. 


A second often-overlooked attribute for those in the social work field is that of compassion. There is the option for you to ‘act out’ your compassion for others in order to come off as comforting. But with a true level of compassion you’re able to ensure your patients know you truly care for them and their situation and are working to help them overcome it. 


When it comes to counselling, confidentiality is paramount. Hence, the importance of discretion comes into play here. You must have the ability to withhold telling others or speaking about specific patients and the issues they are struggling with. These people come to you for assistance, and it is important for them to know that you are not sharing intimate details. 

Encouragement or leadership

One final attribute to keep in mind or work on developing is that of encouragement or leadership. With patients struggling with addiction, it is important to be empowering and push them in a positive way to recover. 

The takeaway

With the right education and commitment to your patients, landing a role isn’t going to be too difficult.

It is important to keep in mind that your main priority is to help others. It’s vital to remain strong, focused and push for positivity. 

See also  5 rewarding reasons to become a counsellor...