Addiction Counselor Burnout

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Want a challenging job that pays an average of $20 an hour? There’s lots of opportunity in the drug addiction counseling field. Unfortunately, part of that opportunity comes because so many leave the profession. According to a press release from NIDA, in 2010, one in three counselors (and one in four clinical supervisors) left their jobs. Although many took jobs elsewhere, but many simply burned out, leaving the field altogether.

This comes at a time when the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a rise in opportunity. According to their job outlook report for addiction counseling:
Employment of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors is expected to grow by 27 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected as more people seek treatment for their addictions or other behaviors and drug offenders are increasingly sentenced to treatment rather than jail time.

So what happens when the field lacks trained providers at the same time need is growing? Well, normally this would lead to a sharp rise in salaries. Competition from employers trying to fill positions leads to offers of higher wages or other benefits. It happened when there was a national nursing shortage. But there’s a fly in the ointment.

Since many addiction treatment programs are funded by governments, and we live in a time where money is tight and there’s a general call for austerity, addiction treatment programs are often on the chopping block. The need is still there, but without money to pay for it, some states have decided it isn’t worth as much as other items in the budget.

What may happen is a rise in private or hospital based treatment programs. These have another funding stream – healthcare insurance. So long as an addiction falls under a diagnosed, and covered, medical condition, it can be reimbursed by insurance that covers treatment. But there’s a problem here as well – most insurance plans are designed for immediate or short term care. We’ve found that addiction is best treated by an extended stay and insurance providers won’t want to cover three months of inpatient care at a facility.

Still, even with a third leaving the field, that leaves two thirds who found a career they could stick with. And there are rewards on offer beyond mere money. What’s the value of seeing someone’s life turn around for the better? Become an addiction counselor and find out.

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