Addiction Counsellor

Job Description:

Addiction counsellors provide compassionate guidance and support to individuals struggling with substance abuse or behavioural dependencies, assisting them in overcoming challenges and fostering a path towards recovery and wellbeing.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

An addiction counsellor:

  • assesses clients’ addiction or dependency issues
  • creates personalised treatment plans
  • provides counselling and therapy (both individually and in groups)
  • educates clients and families
  • intervenes in crises
  • collaborates with other professionals, maintains records, advocates for clients, and stays informed about new approaches to ensure effective support in the recovery process.


You will have:

  • knowledge of psychology and counselling
  • often specialist knowledge on addiction, behavioural health, treatment plans and counselling techniques
  • familiarity with various therapeutic approaches including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, family therapy, and relapse prevention strategies
  • ability to diagnose and assess patients

As well as:

  • active listening skills
  • clear and effective communicator
  • problem solving and conflict resolution skills
  • leadership skills for group facilitations
  • ethics and professionalism
  • cultural competency – sensitivity to diversity
  • ability to work as a team with other medical professionals, legal entities, families and support networks
  • patience, compassion and resilience to work in emotionally charged environments
  • ability to maintain emotional boundaries while working with clients facing challenging circumstances
  • time management and organisation skills to plan tasks according to urgency and difficulty
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become an Addiction Counselor, while there might not be strict GCSE subject requirements, certain subjects can provide a strong foundation such as:

  1. Psychology: This subject provides insights into human behaviour, mental health, and basic counselling principles, which are fundamental for addiction counselling.
  2. Biology: Understanding the basics of human physiology and the effects of substances on the body can be valuable.
  3. English: Strong communication skills are essential in counselling for effective interaction with clients and documentation.
  4. Sociology: This subject explores societal factors, group dynamics, and behavioural patterns, which can be applicable in understanding addiction in a broader context.
  5. Health and Social Care: This subject can provide insights into health issues, social factors, and ethical considerations in counselling.
  6. Mathematics: While not directly related, basic mathematical skills can be useful for analysing data and statistics related to addiction trends.

To become an Addiction Counselor, the qualifications and requirements can vary based on your location and the specific organisation you intend to work for. However, here are the general steps and qualifications often needed:


Most addiction counsellors hold at least a bachelor’s degree in:

  • psychology
  • counselling
  • social work, or a related field

Some positions might require a master’s degree for more advanced roles.


Many regions require addiction counsellors to be certified. You can take a certificate in counselling skills at a further education college, which takes one year to complete. It enhances your counselling skills, provides a deeper understanding of counselling and prepares you for the next training stage.

In the UK, you can then apply for core practitioner training by pursuing a Level 4 diploma or a foundation, an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in counselling. These courses take one year full-time and two years part-time to complete.

Clinical Experience

Gaining practical experience through internships, supervised clinical practice, or work in a counselling setting is crucial for developing your skills and understanding of addiction treatment.


Depending on your location, you might need to obtain a license to practice as an addiction counsellor. Licensing requirements vary widely and can include completing a certain number of supervised hours, passing an exam, and meeting specific education criteria.

Continuing Education

To maintain your certification and licensure, you might need to participate in ongoing training and professional development related to addiction counselling.


Some counsellors choose to specialize further, such as becoming a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) or pursuing specific training in areas like dual diagnosis (co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders).

Working Hours and Environment:

Addiction counsellors may have flexible schedules that include daytime, evening, and weekend hours. Outpatient centres offer regular office hours; residential centres may involve shifts or round-the-clock support.

You may work in :

  • Outpatient centres
  • Residential facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Correctional facilities
  • Private practice
  • Community health centres
  • Educational institutions

With the rise of telehealth services, some addiction counsellors work remotely, conducting sessions via video conferencing platforms to provide counselling and support to clients from different locations.

It’s important to note that the specific working hours and settings can vary based on the counselor’s specialization, the needs of their clients, and the region they work in. Additionally, counselors may need to be available for emergencies or crises, which could affect their working hours and on-call responsibilities.

Career Path & Progression:

After working as an Addiction Counsellor you could progress to being a Senior Counsellor and then Clinical Supervisor overseeing teams.

You could choose to specialise in areas like co-occurring disorders or specific populations.

You could set up a private practise, or become a Clinical Director or Consultant; teach in institutions or provide workshops, or contribute to research and advocate for policy changes.