Drug and alcohol addiction counsellor


Drug and alcohol addiction counsellors provide assistance and counselling to individuals and families dealing with drug and alcohol addictions, monitoring their progress, advocating for them, performing crisis interventions and group therapy. They also assist the persons with the consequences of their addictions which can be unemployment, physical or mental disorders and poverty. Drug and alcohol addiction counsellors may also prepare educational programs for high-risk populations.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to drug and alcohol addiction counsellor:

addictions counsellor
substance abuse counsellor
drug and alcohol addiction social counsellor
drug counsellor
drug and alcohol worker
alcohol counsellor

Minimum qualifications

Bachelor’s degree is generally required to work as drug and alcohol addiction counsellor. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Drug and alcohol addiction counsellor is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Drug and alcohol addiction counsellor career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to drug and alcohol addiction counsellor.

bereavement counsellor
sexual violence counsellor
family planning counsellor
marriage counsellor
social counsellor

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of drug and alcohol addiction counsellor. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of drug and alcohol addiction counsellor with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of drug and alcohol addiction counsellor.

Counselling methods: Counselling techniques used in different settings and with various groups and individuals, especially concerning methods of supervision and mediation in the counselling process.
Legal requirements in the social sector: The prescribed legislative and regulatory requirements in the social sector.
Client-centred counselling: Practice that encourages clients to concentrate on how they feel at the present moment during the counseling session in order to search for the most appropriate solutions.
Supervision of persons: The act of directing one individual or a group of individuals in a certain activity.
Social sciences: The development and characteristics of sociological, anthropological, psychological, political, and social policy theories.
Cognitive behavioural therapy: The solution-focused approach to treating mental disorders oriented towards solving problems by teaching new information-processing skills and coping mechanisms.
Reflexion: The way to listen to individuals, to summarise the major points and clarify what they are feeling in order to help them reflect on their behaviour.
Adolescent psychological development: Understand the developments and the development needs of children and young persons, observing the behaviour and the attachment relationships in order to detect developmental delay.
Human psychological development: The human psychological development across the lifespan, theories of personality development, cultural and environmental influences, human behavior, including developmental crises, disability, exceptional behavior, and addictive behavior.
Psychology: The human behaviour and performance with individual differences in ability, personality, interests, learning, and motivation.
Behavioural therapy: The characteristics and foundations of behavioural therapy, which focuses on changing patients` unwanted or negative behaviour. It involves studying the present behaviour and the means by which this can be un-learned.
Social justice: The development and principles of human rights and social justice and the way they should be applied on a case by case basis.
Psychological theories: The historical development of counselling and psychological theories, as well as the perspectives, applications, and interviewing and counselling strategies.
Dependency on drugs: Dependency on substances such as alcohol, prescribed medication or cocaine and their impact on the brain and human body.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of drug and alcohol addiction counsellor.

Help clients make decisions during counselling sessions: Encourage clients to make their own decisions related to their problems or inner conflicts by reducing confusion and allowing clients to reach their own conclusions, with no bias whatsoever.
Respond to individuals’ extreme emotions: React and help appropriately in case of extreme emotional reactions of individuals in a crisis situation, extreme distress or who are traumatised.
Provide social counselling: Assist and guide social service users to resolve personal, social or psychological problems and difficulties.
Assess the development of youth: Evaluate the different aspects of development needs of children and young people.
Apply quality standards in social services: Apply quality stardards in social services while upholding social work values and principles.
Support the positiveness of youths: Help children and young people to assess their social, emotional and identity needs and to develop a positive self image, enhance their self esteem and improve their self reliance.
Deliver social services in diverse cultural communities: Deliver services which are mindful of different cultural and language traditions, showing respect and validation for communities and being consistent with policies regarding human rights and equality and diversity.
Use motivational incentives in addiction counselling: Use questions to motivate the client to change his/her behaviour or undertake treatment or abstinence from substance or alcohol abuse.
Demonstrate leadership in social service cases: Take the lead in the practical handling of social work cases and activities.
Communicate professionally with colleagues in other fields: Communicate professionally and cooperate with members of the other professions in the health and social services sector.
Follow health and safety precautions in social care practices: Ensure hygienic work practice, respecting the safety of the environment at day care, residential care settings and care at home.
Assess clients’ drug and alcohol addictions: Interview clients and assess their addictions in order to establish an appropriate plan for action.
Promote social change: Promote changes in relationships between individuals, families, groups, organisations and communities by taking into consideration and coping with unpredictable changes, at the micro, macro and mezzo level.
Promote human rights: Promote and respect human rights and diversity in light of the physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs of autonomous individuals, taking into account their opinions, beliefs and values, and the international and national codes of ethics, as well as the ethical implications of healthcare provision, ensuring their right to privacy and honouring for the confidentiality of healthcare information.
Prepare youths for adulthood: Work with children and young people to identify the skills and abilities they will need to become effective citizens and adults and to prepare them for independence.
Assess social service users’ situation: Assess the social situation of service users situation balancing curiosity and respect in the dialogue, considering their families, organisations and communities and the associated risks and identifying the needs and resources, in order to meet physical, emotional and social needs.
Handle conflicts: Mediate in conflicts and tense situations by acting between parties, such as service users, important others like families, and institutions, striving to effect an agreement, reconciliate, and resolve problems.
Promote the safeguarding of young people: Understand safeguarding and what should be done in cases of actual or potential harm or abuse.
Relate empathetically: Recognise, understand and share emotions and insights experienced by another.
Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
Manage social crisis: Identify, respond and motivate individuals in social crisis situations, in a timely manner, making use of all resources.
Perform therapy sessions: Work in sessions with individuals or groups to deliver therapy in a controlled environment.
Apply socially just working principles: Work in accordance with management and organisational principles and values focusing on human rights and social justice.
Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
Maintain records of work with service users: Maintain accurate, concise, up-to-date and timely records of the work with service users while complying with legislation and policies related to privacy and security.
Encourage counselled clients to examine themselves: Support and encourage the clients to analyse and be aware of some aspects in their life that may have been distressing or impossible to tackle so far.
Report on social development: Report results and conclusions on society’s social development in an intelligible way, presenting these orally and in written form to a range of audiences from non-experts to experts.
Organise relapse prevention: Help the patient or client identify and anticipate high risk situations or external and internal triggers. Support them in developing better coping strategies and back-up plans in case of future difficulties.
Undertake continuous professional development in social work: Undertake continuous professional development (CPD) to continuously update and develop knowledge, skills and competences within one`s scope of practice in social work.
Refer social service users: Make referrals to other professionals and other organisations, based on the social service users’ requirements and needs.
Communicate with social service users: Use verbal, non-verbal, written, and electronic communication. Pay attention to the specific social service users’ needs, characteristics, abilities, preferences, age, developmental stage, and culture.
Maintain a non-emotional involvement: Keep a broader perspective and stay non-attached to the emotions and feelings expressed by the client during counselling sessions.
Maintain the trust of service users: Establish and maintain the trust and confidence of the client, communicating in an appropriate, open, accurate and straightforward way and being honest and reliable.
Have emotional intelligence: Recognize ones own and other people`s emotions, distinguish correctly between them and observing how they can influence one`s environment and social interaction and what can be done about it.
Cooperate at inter-professional level: Cooperate with people in other sectors in relation to social service work.
Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.
Manage stress in organisation: Cope with sources of stress and cross-pressure in one’s own professional life, such as occupational, managerial, institutional and personal stress, and help others do the same so as to promote the well-being of your colleagues and avoid burn-out.
Build helping relationship with social service users: Develop a collaborative helping relationship, addressing any ruptures or strains in the relationship, fostering bonding and gaining service users` trust and cooperation through empathic listening, caring, warmth and authenticity.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of drug and alcohol addiction counsellor. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Sophrology: The principles and techniques such as concentration, deep breathing, relaxation and visualisation designed to bring the consciousness in harmony with the body.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of drug and alcohol addiction counsellor. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Inform on the risks of substance and alcohol abuse: Provide information in the community about the risks and dangers of substance and alcohol abuse.

ISCO group and title

2635 – Social work and counselling professionals





  1. Drug and alcohol addiction counsellor – ESCO
Last updated on August 8, 2022

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