Substance Abuse Counselor

There are few professions that can be as uniquely challenging and deeply rewarding as the chemical dependency profession. Substance Abuse Counselors, more commonly called Chemical dependency professionals (CDPs) within that professional community, provide the coaching, discipline, structure and inspiration necessary for drug addicts and alcoholics to overcome their addictions and take back the control they once had over their own lives. Whether working for a school in a preventative capacity, or in a treatment clinic assisting with addiction recovery, it is always the goal of CDPs to provide education, counseling, and support in an effort to help facilitate independence and absolute abstinence from the use of drugs and alcohol.

This article follows Sydney Love, a substance abuse counselor interning at a non-profit methadone clinic in Seattle, Washington. Using Sydney’s experience, we wish to give those who might be considering substance abuse counselor training a first hand look into the details of the profession, and provide a better understanding of the affect these counselors have on the individuals and communities with which they work.

Sydney’s day used to begin when she punched the clock and sat down at her desk to take phone calls. After years of working with the same large corporate employer, she left her well-paying job to answer her calling in pursuit of a profession dedicated to the service of others and became a Substance abuse counselor. Now her days start with much more excitement than they once did; observing and intervening in the sale and use of illegal drugs on her short walk from the bus stop to her office in the non-profit treatment center and methadone clinic located in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood.

From the moment she steps off the bus and out onto the street Sydney can’t help but be acutely aware of the drug activity that surrounds her. For many urbanites the blatant sale of heroin and crack and the open use of these illegal drugs on the sidewalks and in the parks is so common that it simply goes unnoticed, blending seamlessly into the urban cityscape. For those less jaded individuals who do take notice, the most common reaction is to turn away in fear and disgust, uncomfortably pretending not to have seen anything at all. But for substance abuse counselors like Sydney Love, the pain of a life destroyed by addiction is too real not to notice and too close not to care: Sydney lost her own brother to a heroin overdose just over one year ago. This, no doubt, has contributed to her vigilance, fearlessness, and her very personal commitment to the sobriety and success of her clients.

What is the demographic of clients seen by chemical dependency counselors?

There is no social or economic class immune to the disease that is chemical addiction. The same treatment centers that work with indigent or homeless drug addicts may also work with people from every part of the social strata, including successful business people or other professionals, and independent business owners. The location of a given treatment agency has the biggest influence on the type of client it services. Urban centers are more likely to service the homeless and indigent because this is where this population is concentrated. Treatment agencies in the suburbs are more likely to work with people from the local community where homelessness and poverty is less common. Privately owned for-profit agencies, regardless of their locations, are usually more expensive and cater to the middle and upper class segments of society. However, substance abuse counselor intern, Sydney Love, pointed out that at her non-profit clinic they are currently working with both a former professional PGA golfer and a formerly famous Seattle musician who was able to retire on the royalty checks he still receives from the sales of the gold and platinum records he collaborated on.

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