What Can I Do With My Addiction Counseling Major?

Addiction Counseling

With millions of people suffering from substance use each year, it’s not surprising that substance use is one of the most common problems in our country today.  Substance use and addiction related disorders impact every sector of our society.  All races, cultures, ages and genders are affected.  Addiction counseling prepares students who wish to serve individuals and families dealing with the effects of substance use.  Program graduates support prevention, addiction treatment, and recovery efforts.  Graduates can choose to pursue a career in line with the scope of their degree and skills or further their studies by going on for a baccalaureate degree and beyond.  In addition, students are academically and professionally prepared for the process becoming a New Hampshire Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of substance use and behavioral disorder counselors is projected to grow 31 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.  Growth is expected as addiction and mental health counseling services are increasingly covered by insurance policies.  Federal legislation mandating individual health coverage may increase the number of health insurance customers.  In addition, the law requires insurance plans to cover treatment for mental health issues in the same way as other chronic diseases.  These factors will open up prevention and treatment services to more people who were previously uninsured, did not have these services covered, or found treatment to be cost-prohibitive.  These trends point to a growing need, and demand, for professionals who wish to make a difference in the lives of those facing substance use challenges.

Visit NHTI’s Addiction Counseling Department for information on degree and course offerings.

Career Paths for This Major

When you graduate with this major, you will have varied career options that depend upon your specific interests, abilities, work values, and experience in the field.  Substance use and behavioral disorder counselors typically do the following:

  • Assess and evaluate clients’ mental and physical health, addiction or problem behavior, and readiness to treatment
  • Help clients develop treatment goals and plans
  • Review and recommend treatment options with clients and their families
  • Help clients develop skills and behaviors necessary to recover from their addiction or modify their behavior
  • Work with clients to identify behaviors or situations that interfere with their recovery
  • Teach families about addiction or behavior disorders and help them develop strategies to cope with those problems
  • Refer clients to other resources and services, such as job placement services and support groups
  • Conduct outreach programs to help people identify the signs of addiction and other destructive behavior, as well as steps to take to avoid such behavior
  • Substance use and behavioral disorder counselors, also called addiction counselors, work with clients individually and in group sessions.  Many incorporate the principles of 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to guide their practice.  They teach clients how to cope with stress and life’s problems in ways that help them recover.  Furthermore, they help clients rebuild professional relationships and, if necessary, reestablish their career.  They also help clients improve their personal relationships and find ways to discuss their addiction or other problem with family and friends.
  • Some addiction counselors work in facilities that employ many types of healthcare and mental health professionals.  Addiction counselors may work with psychiatrists, social workers, physicians, and registered nurses to develop treatment plans and coordinate care for patients.

Be aware that an addictions counselor's professional training and levels of clinical experience vary. Educational requirements range from a high school diploma to a master’s degree, depending on the setting, type of work, state regulations, and level of responsibility.  Addictions counselors provide alcohol and drug counseling and education by performing a number of key functions, which may include individual counseling, group counseling, intakes and assessments, client education, referrals, case management, and record keeping.  In addition, they will assist other licensed professionals.

While students in this program gain a significant knowledge base related to substance use and addiction, graduates could choose to also explore other topics and specialties in counseling such as career counseling, marriage and family counseling, and more.  Aside from counseling, graduates could also explore and pursue non-counseling roles related to addiction including research, teaching, administration and more.  The rest of this guide is designed to open you up to possibilities and provide you with resources for gathering further information.


Skills Developed Through This Major

12 Core Functions
Screening Case Management
Intake Crisis Intervention
Orientation Client Education
Assessment Referral
Treatment Planning Report and Record Keeping
Counseling Consultation
Additional Skills Acquired  
Organization and Time Management Mindfulness Skills
Communication Personal Self-Care
Documentation Decision-making
Observation Group Facilitation
Ethical Guidelines Teamwork
Boundaries Critical Thinking
Conflict Resolution Decision Making

Sample Career Titles

These titles include positions that you may qualify for with this associate degree or a bachelor’s degree and beyond…

Substance Use and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Detox Specialist Social Worker
Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist Clinical Supervisor Family Therapist
Client, Family and Community Educator Prevention Specialist Nurse/Psychiatric Nurse
Intake Worker Alcohol and Drug Counselor Psychologist
Referral Resource Specialist Researcher Psychiatrist
Administrative Support Educator/Teacher/Professor  
Recovery Support Case Manager  


Sample Employers

Residential Treatment Centers Detoxification Centers Research Facilities
Transitional Living Programs Long-term Care Facilities Medical Clinics
Public and Private General Psychiatric Units Medically Assisted Treatment Facilities Employee Assistance Programs
Youth and Group Homes Nursing Homes Insurance Companies
Juvenile Detention Centers Social Service Agencies Impaired Driver Programs
Addiction Treatment Centers Correctional Facilities Educational, Academic, or Training Institutions and Centers
Diversion Programs Probation/Parole Office Mental Health Agencies
Rehabilitation Programs (inpatient and outpatient) Prisons Crisis Hotline Centers

Ways to Explore and Reality Test Careers

There are four key ways to explore your favorite career interests…through reading, through speaking with those in the know, through observing and through doing.  Use the link(s) below to begin exploring major related careers through ‘reading’.  Go to the Exploring Career Interests link to get tips on all four key exploration strategies.

Additional sources of information for this major include:

  • NHTI Faculty, Academic Advisors, and Addiction Counseling Department resources.
  • People working in the profession
  • Professional Associations (see below)


Continuing Education Information

Many of our graduates directly continue on with their Bachelor’s Degree.  We have transfer agreements with many well-known colleges and universities.  Students interested in becoming a social worker work with our two-plus-two programs with UNH-Durham and Plymouth State University.  They transfer on after their associate degree and enter into the BSW Program as a junior.  Bachelor's Degree options in Psychology and Human Services, as well as others, are also available in the same type of format.  Southern NH University, Springfield College, Keene State University, UNH-Manchester are some examples.

How to Increase Employability

  • Perform practicum work which displays your professionalism, knowledge and skill at the particular site.
  • Become an active student member of college, community, or professional associations, which helps you build leadership skills and promote connecting (networking) with fellow professionals.
  • Obtain quality practical experience prior to graduation through part-time, full-time and summer employment related to your targeted field including work settings, populations, and social issues of interest.
  • Participate in volunteer and service learning opportunities.
  • Continue networking with practicum supervisors, professors and professionals met in the course of your college experience.

Professional Association Links

Professionals who do work related to this major belong to these associations.  You can use the links below to do career research and to connect with local association members.  You may also be able to join an association of interest, at a reduced rate, as a student member.

Employment Links

See below for job posting sites related to this major (including our own home grown NHTI posting site – see first link).


Michael O'Bryant
Human Service and Addiction Counseling  Dept. Chair
(603) 271-6484 x4269

Kelly Luedtke
Addiction Counseling Program Coordinator
(603) 271-6484 x4174

31 College Drive
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 230-4011

Academic Advising
31 College Drive
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 230-4021
Fax: (603) 223-0785