Substance abuse counselors assist patients who suffer from problems relating to alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. Often, these professionals counsel patients who are addicted to a drug or fear they are becoming addicted to a drug. Counselors may also work with families, spouses or parents of addicts through intervention, or to help manage the problems or emotional strain an addict may be causing in the family. Assistants to these professionals generally help manage patients, work with social service agencies and interview new patients.


Assistants to substance abuse counselors help with day-to-day activities, including scheduling and managing appointments, interviewing new patients, and sitting in on appointments to further assist the counselor. Substance abuse counselor assistants may also meet with family members, contact rehabilitation centers or human service agencies or work with less severe patients.


Assistants to substance abuse counselors must have at least a high school diploma, though many abuse offices require further education, including a certificate or associate's degree in gerontology, human services or social or behavioral science. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, strong candidates have a bachelor's or master's degree in human services, rehabilitation science, social work or counseling.

Experiencing and Training

In addition to formal education, assistants to substance abuse counselors often have several years of experience working in human services or counseling. Often, strong candidates will have worked or volunteered in homeless shelters, women's health clinics, schools or rehabilitation facilities. Applicants may also have enrolled in community workshops or seminars.

Desirable Skills

Assistants to a substance abuse counselor should have a desire to help others and work one-on-one with patients. These professionals should be able to effectively manage time, handle responsibility, manage personal or private files and have strong communication skills. Assistants should also be patient and understanding. Often, assistants must pass a routine criminal background check. Drug screening may also be required of new assistants. Often, agencies may have assistants meet patients in their home, school or clinic, so a valid driver's license may be required.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, social and human service assistants held over 352,000 positions in 2008. Of these, 65 percent held positions in healthcare and social services, while 24 percent held positions in state and local government. In addition, the field is expected to grow by nearly 23 percent by the year 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, assistants in the social and human services fields made an average of $27,280 in May of 2008. The top 10 percent of assistants made over $43,510, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,900, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Assistants working in state and local government generally make the most, with an average of $35,510 in May of 2008.

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