Substance Abuse Counselor Training in Virginia

Substance abuse counselors work with individuals who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction and other maladaptive relationships with intoxicating substances. Although the steps on the road to each effective treatment may vary, there are some general tasks that substance abuse counselors perform:

  • Conducting assessments of clients' health, well-being and treatment readiness
  • Educating clients and families about treatment goals and coping strategies
  • Helping clients identify environments or patterns of behavior that might inhibit recovery
  • Introducing clients to community resources like support groups and job placement services

Numerous options for specialization exist at Virginia substance abuse counseling schools. The duties of substance abuse counselors can also depend on whether or not they've chosen to guide their training toward a certain at-risk population, like teenagers or military veterans, or a particular high-demand industry such as criminal justice.

Subjects studied during substance abuse counselor training in Virginia

Depending on the position, prospective substance abuse counselors may need anywhere from a high school diploma all the way up to a master's degree. Positions that require more education typically provide a wider range of services and require less supervision. Substance abuse counselor schools in Virginia each set their own curriculum, but there are some core concepts that most students will study:

  • Counseling psychology
  • Treatment systems
  • Psychoactive pharmacology
  • Intervention techniques
  • Counseling techniques
  • Group dynamics
  • Addiction and prevention
  • Case management

Students with busy family lives or professional schedules may also be able to undergo much of their substance abuse counselor training online. It may be difficult to find fully online substance abuse counselor training in Virginia, since internships or other fieldwork components are typically required.

Licensing and certification for Virginia substance abuse counselors

The Virginia Board of Counseling oversees licensure and certification of substance abuse counselors in Virginia. All counselors with a private practice must be licensed, and those who work within an organization can also benefit from state-sanctioned professional certification.

Here's a list of the credentials that the Virginia Board of Counseling provides for qualified candidates:

  • Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC)
  • Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Assistant (CSAC-A)
  • Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner (LSATP)
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
  • Certified Rehabilitation Provider (CRP)

Each individual license or certification comes with its own prerequisite amounts of education and experience, and most candidates must pass the appropriate exam and pay all associated fees before the credential can be awarded. Some licenses also come with a continuing education requirement, which may include such activities as attending workshops and conferences, publishing books or research and completing additional academic work at the university level.

Virginia substance abuse counselor salary information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) projects much faster than average job growth among substance abuse counselors between 2012 and 2022, with a 31 percent employment increase expected nationwide. An earlier survey conducted by the Virginia Employment Commission and released through the U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop information portal predicted 25 percent in-state job growth between 2010 and 2020.

BLS figures indicate a mean annual wage of $46,650 among substance abuse counselors in Virginia in 2013, which is substantially higher than the same year's national mean annual salary of $41,090. The metropolitan area around Arlington County, which includes neighboring Alexandria and Washington, D.C, paid substance abuse counselors a mean annual wage of $52,460 in 2013.


Applications and Instructions, Virginia Board of Counseling, http://www.dhp.virginia.gov/counseling/counseling_forms.htm

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211011.htm

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-6

Substance Abuse Certificate Program, Northern Virginia Community College, http://www.nvcc.edu/campuses-and-centers/alexandria/academic-divisions/libarts/substance.html

Substance Abuse Counseling Education, Career Studies Certificate, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, http://www.reynolds.edu/curriculum/Substance_Abuse_Counseling_EducationCSC_480-30.aspx

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