Is the Field of Addiction Counseling for You?

By Kristie Overstreet on March 17, 2020

Are you considering going into the field of addiction counseling? Do you have an interest in helping people struggling with out of control behavior? If so, your clinical experience is needed in the field of addiction recovery.

As a substance abuse counselor, you can find a job in a hospital, outpatient, or private practice setting. Your clinical skills in mental health and substance abuse can make a big difference in your client’s life. Here are a few things to consider as you question if the field of addiction counseling is right for you.

Addiction Counseling

Exploring your views of addiction

One of the crucial things to look at as you consider this field of work is to examine your views on abuse and addiction. With any clinical work, transference and countertransference need to be kept in mind.

When it comes to addiction, it’s easy to let your experience, including personal and family history, enter the therapy room. This is why it is recommended that you seek your own individual therapy to explore any unresolved issues you may have that could negatively affect your clients.

Individual and group supervision is a great way to grow your clinical skills as well as explore any potential transference or countertransference that may surface. Consider finding a mentor or supervisor who has clinical skills that you connect with and ask them if they would consider mentoring you.

Addiction counseling approaches

There are several counseling approaches and addiction therapy models that you will be able to utilize. One of the most common is the use of group therapy, which has many advantages in substance abuse treatment. Individual counseling is also used, but group counseling helps individuals in many ways that the solo approach can’t. In addition to addiction group therapy, you’ll have the opportunity to provide counseling for parents of addicts or family counseling.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for addiction is a common modality that is used in substance abuse treatment. Psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal therapy, and dialectical therapy are a few other common modalities used in addiction counseling.

As you gain more experience in substance abuse counseling, you’ll find the style that resonates most for you and your clients. Be patient with yourself as you try new clinical approaches that you learn in supervision or through addiction counseling training courses. With every client you work with, you will become more comfortable in your clinical skills.

Examples of addictions you may encounter

There are numerous substances and behavioral addictions that you will be dealing with as a substance abuse counselor. Substance abuse can take many forms. For example, opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines, alcohol are just a few.

It’s important that you meet your clients where they are at in their growth. For example, they may state they have a meth addiction, opioid addiction, or Xanax addiction. Avoid using clinical language and opt for a common language with your clients when possible.

Your client may report behavioral problems that they see as addictive. Clients don’t care whether these are clinically founded or in the DSM, for example, sugar addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, porn addiction, food addiction, internet addiction, or phone addiction.

As a clinician, your client is counting on you to help them through their struggles. You can find a way to educate them on what is classified as an ‘addiction’ according to studies and the DSM as well as support them with their beliefs of what an addiction is. This is a delicate balance, which you’ll be able to use your clinical skills to implement.

The field of addiction counseling is growing and expanding with new treatment options. You have an excellent opportunity to create a specialty skill as well as make a difference in many client’s lives. Whether you choose to work with those struggling with addiction, their families, or both, you’ll be glad you picked the field of substance abuse treatment.


Dr. Kristie Overstreet is a clinical sexologist, certified sex therapist, licensed professional clinical counselor, author, speaker, and consultant. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology, Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She is a licensed counselor in California, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. She is also a Certified Sex Therapist and Certified Addiction Professional. She has over 12 years of clinical experience specializing in sex therapy, transgender healthcare, relationships, and helping counselors build their private practice. She is president of Therapy Department, a private practice that provides counseling, training, speaking, and consulting services across the United States.  For more information about Dr. Kristie's work visit


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