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Why to Become a Drug Abuse Counselor (Especially If You’re in Recovery)

Here at The Academy for Addiction Professionals, one of the most common questions we receive is from addicted individuals, now well into their recovery, asking how they can give back to the community that helped them so much. It stands to reason that those who made it through quite possibly the hardest part of their lives, would want to pass on that hope to others. Further, many recovering addicts worked with success stories throughout their stay in treatment. In other words, many of the employees in treatment centers around the country are in recovery themselves.

So why consider becoming a substance abuse counselor in recovery?


Many of us begin our addiction at a very young age – before even considering getting a job. It’s not uncommon to hear about pre-teens dabbling in drugs and alcohol and becoming full-blown addicts by high school. Depending on how long this addiction has lasted, many recovering addicts have missed out on educational and work experience that would allow them to pursue a high-level career path. Fortunately, the addiction treatment industry looks at recovering addicts as a wealth of potential, excited to begin their careers anew and motivated in a way that few can be unless they have been in the throes of addiction.

A Growing Career Path

Regardless of an aspiring counselor’s education or experience level, there is a job to fit every person. Many of us begin as behavioral health techs or recovery support specialists, which require less experience and lower education levels. From there, our experience and motivation may lead us to seeking counselor certifications. Once a counselor, experience and track record become more important. The demand for qualified and talented addiction counselors is on the rise due to the unfortunate epidemic of drug use that we are currently experiencing. The result is that facilities in every state are looking for qualified candidates.

Reinforcing Your Own Recovery

One of the themes that we discuss in-depth is the concept of counselor self-care. This means that not only should a counselor be caring for their clients, but also themselves. Part of this self-care includes reinforcing your own recovery, if indeed you are a recovering addict. Imparting your knowledge and experience, when appropriate, on others who are fighting addiction is a very gratifying feeling and a sure-fire way to remind yourself of how far you’ve come. While there are certainly stresses involved in the job, you’re constantly reminded of where you’ve been and what the consequences of relapse are. It can be great motivation to stay clean.

Your Own Reasons

Of course, we all have our own reasons to choose a career path or make a change in our lives. Most importantly we must look inside and find what’s right for us – not because we are told that’s what we should do, but it’s truly what we believe we should do.

And while much is made of recovering addicts that pursue a career in counseling, the above all rings true for those who have never experienced drug addiction in themselves. Addiction and behavioral health counseling forces you to reflect, it forces you to come to terms with your own concerns, shortfalls and preconceived notions. It forces you to muster the strength to not only support yourself, but also those who need you the most.

Addiction counseling is a truly challenging, but also very rewarding field. There are dozens of specializations that one can pursue – from adolescence drug treatment to psychotherapy. Counselors can practice in a number of settings – an addiction treatment facility, a hospital system or even break out on their own in private practice. The latitude in this industry is truly stunning.

If you are curious about what becoming an addiction professional takes, or wondering how to get started, we welcome you to reach out and learn more.