You most likely chose this career for a very specific reason. Consider your motivation to help people and your drive to learn new, innovative therapy techniques. Where did that motivation come from? Perhaps you struggled with addiction in your past, or have seen a loved one fight a battle with addiction. As an Addiction Counselor, you will be assisting others in facing difficult issues which means you need to have a solid motivator, and a strong desire to keep moving forward on the toughest days. If you have a personal story that directed you towards addiction counseling, share it!
"I grew up in a family that had generational struggles with addiction. A big motivator for me was to learn everything I could about addictions, and the genetic link to the behavior of an addict. I wanted to break my own family's cycle of addiction, while helping others at the same time."
"When majoring in Psychology, I found my substance abuse classes very interesting. I decided I wanted to learn more from patients and the effects substances have on their bodies. I am very excited to continue learning in this role as an addiction counselor."
"After being sober for the last 5 years I decided to give back by helping others with the same struggles I had. When I was taking counseling for my own addiction, my coach was a significant source of strength and help all along the way. I want to be that for someone, too."
The majority of people will work overtime hours or take work home with them on occasion. Talk to the interviewer about how frequently to take your work home. Ensure that you express your need for a positive balance between work and personal life.
"I make sure to utilize my work hours very efficiently so the only time that I take my work home is when there is an extremely stringent deadline. I would say that, overall, I take my work home maybe twice per month. It's all about being diligent with your time in the office!"
"I take my work home with me whenever it is necessary. Some positions I have held, I work from home nearly every day. Other roles, such as my current position, I work from home just a couple of times per month."
"I try not to take my work home with me. Everyone needs downtime. However, if something needs to get done, I will get it done, even from home. It's important as an addictions counselor that I regenerate between patients as well."
This is another question that requires insight and awareness. When describing yourself, consider some of your strengths. If you are perceptive, disciplined and friendly, how do these traits contribute to your ability to help your patients? Although this question simply asks about how these words describe you, if you take it to the next level, you will help the interviewer to see how well you would fit into the role. You want to help them realize how you are the best candidate for the job. Paint a picture of yourself that shows you fit perfectly into their work environment. Draw on any descriptive words used in the job posting, as well.
"I saw in your job posting that you are looking for someone compassionate with a penchant for gentle leadership. That most definitely describes my approach. In addition to these qualities, I am also organized, and determined."
"Here are some words that may describe your character as an addiction counselor: - Very strong interpersonal skills - Trustworthy - Clear communicator - Empathetic - Knowledgeable - Partnership mentality - Committed - Confident - Ability to read between the lines - Inspirational - Optimistic - Embraces diversity - Insightful - Strong research skills "
"If I had just 3 words to describe myself, I would say that I am patient, kind, and knowledgeable. I have successfully used these characteristics to carve a great career for myself as a compassionate and effective addiction counselor."
Give an example of time one of your patients did not overcome their circumstances. It could be that they had to go back to jail or maybe they committed suicide. It could also be the realization that some issues are beyond your ability to repair. Show that you can come to a place of acceptance about the situation. Explain why you were disappointed and how you handled it. Be sure to keep patient confidentiality top of mind when answering this question
"One of my patients was struggling with a drug addiction that caused him to take his own life. It was really difficult for me to hear the news because it felt like we were making such great progress. In the end I had to accept that I can only do my best. There are some problems that are deeper than you or I can understand."
"My biggest career disappointment so far was not landing the practicum that I really had my heart set on. I truly felt like I had nailed the interview but unfortunately, it was not enough. Despite the disappointment, I was able to remind myself that everything happens for a reason. The practicum that I ultimately ended up in, then opened the door for me to land my first full time counseling position. In the end, I ended up where I needed to be."
"In my current role, we do a lot of fundraising in hopes that public funding will help us to keep some of our free support groups and programs open. This past year we did not meet our targets and it was really upsetting to see some of the programs close due to lack of funding. We have made a strong 5 year plan, in response to this disappointment. With this plan, I am confident that we will be able to reinstate these programs in the coming months."
You are in the business of helping people so you must understand how to have harmonious relationships and clear communication with your coworkers. The interviewer wants to hear that you work well with all types of people from every walk of life! If the interviewer asks you how you handle challenging personalities, like frustrated family members, explain how you understand that family members are concerned for their loved one. Show that you understand what motivates the attitudes and behaviors of others.
"l work great with all types of people. I have a way of bringing out the best in others and motivating them. I love working with a diverse team because it gives everyone a chance to contribute as well as learn something from one another."
"I can work with people one on one as well as in groups. I think active listening is so important as an addiction counselor. It shows the patient that you are taking the time to listen to them. The same goes for my colleagues!"
"All of the colleagues I have worked with have shared a very respectful relationship with me. We have shared goals and we knowledge to accomplish those things to the best we can. Each of us has a part in the success of our patients and practice, and we utilize healthy communication practices to make it happen."
Stick with a professional answer to this interview question. The interviewer doesn't need to know that you hang out with your boss after work and throw back a few pints. Tell the interviewer about the multiple awards you've earned, kudos you've received, and compliments from your boss.
"My current boss refers to me as the 'go-to' person for any policy related questions. I'm always quick to help others, am knowledgeable in my job and project a professional image."
"Here are some words that your boss may use to describe you: - Professional - Humble - Determined - Accountable - Dependable - Dedicated - Knowledgeable - Helpful - Eager - Reliable "
"My boss would describe me as a motivated individual. Motivated to help my patients, motivated to lead in a positive work environment as well as better myself as a clinician and person."
As an Addiction Counselor, you will need to monitor patient progress for many reasons. Patient charting, clinic compliance, and your own knowledge base. Tell the interviewer about a computer system or process that you have used in order to monitor your patients.
"I keep paper charts and notes on all of my patients. The clinic that I currently work for doesn't use electronic health records at this time."
"I monitor the progress of the patient by tracking the notes by other clinicians and comparing them to my original diagnosis and behavior plan."
"I am well versed in the 'wecounsel' system. It is a cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant program that offers client messaging, scheduling, and document management solutions. Could you share with me which programs you use here?"
This question is the perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. Tell the interviewer if you found out about the position through a friend or professional contact or if you discovered the company position through an event or article.
"I found the listing through a job board. Your ad was clear and eye-catching. I appreciated the fact that there were so many job details."
"I heard about your position from a former professor. He recommended that I apply to the position after seeing it on an industry specific job board."
"A former colleague of mine told me about your position. She was your lead LCSW the past 4 years before she moved to California 2 months ago."
Not all interview questions are based on your work experience and education. Interviewers ask personal questions to see if you will fit in with their workplace culture. Take this opportunity to show your personality. Tell the interviewer about your hobbies but keep it semi-professional. You never know, you may strike up a great conversation with the interviewer and find out the two of you have hobbies in common.
"I enjoy volunteering with my family, outside of work. Giving back to my community in various ways is important to me. Most recently we spent a weekend at the local soup kitchen, serving dinner to the homeless."
"Outside of work I like to spend time with my nieces and nephews. I also spend a good amount of time learning more about addictions and therapy methods."
"In my spare time I write a blog about addiction in America. I write about the crisis and how we are moving forward to tackle this national issue."
This is a great question to flip the table on your interviewer and find out if the opportunity you are interviewing for is the right fit for you. Ask the interviewer any questions that weren't covered.
"Could you walk me though a day in the position? Also, what do you like best about working here?"
"Here are some sample questions: - When would you like to have this position filled? - How long has this role been vacant? - Is this a replacement search or a newly created role? - What is your favorite part about working here? - What is the company's primary goal for this position in the next 12 months? - Is there anything from my background and experience that I can clarify for you? - What do you see as the biggest change in this industry over the past 3 years? - Is there any reason why you would not hire me? "
"Thank you for asking - I do have a few questions. What is top of mind when it comes to filling this role? In addition, what types of career growth opportunities would follow this position? And lastly, do you have internal candidates who are also interviewing for this position?"
As an Addiction Counselor you generally don't work on your own but, rather, in a multidisciplinary team to treat the patients. Tell the interviewer how you have been a successful team member in the past, what has worked and what you will continue doing when you more to a new team. If you have difficulty working in a team environment: "Depending on the scope of the project, I sometimes prefer to work autonomously; however, I am more than capable of being a positive and contributing member of a team based project." If you love working in a team environment: "Personally, I thrive in a team environment. I see team projects as an opportunity to learn new skills!"
"Depending on the scope of the project, I sometimes prefer to work autonomously; however, I am more than capable of being a positive and contributing member of a team based project."
"Because I just finished my degree, the majority of my recent experience is from a team environment. I have no difficulty working in a team environment."
"I have many years' experience working in a multidisciplinary team environment. I prefer working as part of a team because the collaboration ensures that each patient gets the best care possible."
Is honesty always the best policy? Talk to the interviewer about your thoughts on honesty in the workplace.
"Sometimes full disclosure can damage someone's self esteem, and reality isn't always best expressed in full and can be self-indulgent based on the person's intention. In those instances, honesty isn't always the best policy."
"I do feel that honesty is the best policy so long as the honest comment does not come with the intention of being hurtful."
"Honesty is always the best policy. Often times, it is just a matter of how you communicate and deliver your message so managing this with each situation is critical to building honest and trustworthy relationships."
The interviewer wants to be assured that you can handle the workload required of you in this position, and that you will not become overwhelmed if/when workloads unexpectedly increase. When workloads increase, stress levels do too. How do you react?
"When I have a large workload on my plate, I do not stress over the tasks that are in front of me. Rather, I make a simple plan of which tasks are high priority and which tasks are lower priority. The higher priority tasks, I complete first. Through this system, I am able to focus on my tasks individually, rather than stress out by the multitude of tasks ahead of me."
"Here are some suggestions on how to handle a large workload: - List your tasks and prioritize them - Exhale. Relax for a minute and collect yourself - Organize your tasks by which ones you can complete independently and which ones you need help with - Take sufficient breaks so you do not exhaust yourself - Communicate your struggles with your leadership or team"
"I find it is important to keep myself on a tight schedule as well as a bit of administrative time. I make it a point to take a lunch break each day even if it is just 15 minutes to avoid burnout. Staying on a schedule helps me manage my large workload."
Behavioral issues and dual diagnosis, like a bipolar alcoholic, can make treatment extremely difficult. What can make treatment even more difficult are those who don't cooperate or follow through with the plan of care. Tell the interviewer about a particular situation or patient. Be sure to respect patient confidentiality when sharing any examples.
"When a patient doesn't take responsibility to start making changes that are constructive in their life, I feel the difficulty. I do my best to empower them, because ultimately they are the ones who can change their own lives. If they choose not to do the work, treatment is a whole lot harder."
"I believe that, once I am working as an addiction counselor, I will have difficulty treating patients that aren't ready to help themselves. As a counselor, you so badly want to see everyone make their own personal breakthroughs but I realize this may not be realistic. That will be challenging, for sure."
"I have come across some difficult patients in my career as a counselor. I would say the most challenging patients are those who do not follow their treatment plan yet tell me that they are. It's hard to work around dishonesty so I gently remind these patients that the only person they are hurting is themselves."
The interviewer is asking you this question to make sure you are dedicated to your profession as an addiction counselor. Steer clear from making the cliche joke that you hope to have their job in 5 years (hardy-har-har). Instead, state that you would like to be in a leadership position or somewhere in their clinic.
"I see myself actively engaged in the community through leading groups, volunteering, and positively representing this clinic to the general public."
"In 5 years I'd like to hold a leadership position. A clinic supervisor or an intern supervisor role would be right up my alley."
"In 5 years I would like to be seen as an authority in the area of addictions. I would like to be well-connected and trusted when it comes to my work here."
A potential employer will often base their offer on your current salary. You should be transparent about your most recent earnings and be prepared to back up any salary requests.
"I am currently earning a salary of $48,000 plus a car allowance of $500/month because I travel between clinics quite often. I am looking for a competitive salary in my next position."
"As I am a recent graduate, I would like to be offered a fair salary that reflects my recent education. I am most concerned with joining an organization that will help me to grow my career in addictions counseling. Compensation is not my primary driver."
"I am currently making $70,000 per year. I am looking for compensation that is aligned with the role and provides opportunity for growth."
Think of the traits that make you good at your job. Reflect back on the top qualities of an addiction counselor. If you're not sure, think about the qualities it will take to tackle the tasks laid out in the job description. Being empathetic, observant and patient are all traits worth mentioning! Next, talk about how you use each strength in the workplace.
"One of my strengths is my ability to empathize and express my understanding to my patients. These skills make them feel more comfortable opening up to me."
"One of my strengths is my ability to make light of difficult situations. I bring a sense of humor to the office and keep it professional. Sometimes the best way to relieve stress and get through each day is through humor."
"I believe my biggest strengths are in my ability to draw thoughts and feelings out of a patient without them feeling as though I am prying. This skill has helped me to be very successful in bringing many clients to a life absent of substances."
As a counselor, your weaknesses can be like blind spots that could hinder your success if you don't have the awareness. It's important to know those areas that need improvement so that they don't interfere with your work or your ability to help your patients. Be sure to mention what you are doing to improve on your weakness. Your weakness can become a strength when you show your proactive approach to change.
"I have struggled with time management for awhile. I often get so immersed in what I'm doing that I lose track of time. When I work with patients, I have learned to watch the time and also let them know how much time remains, because it helps us to be more productive and make the most of our time together. I make a conscious effort to be aware and respect other people's time."
"One of my weaknesses is working through my breaks and lunch hour. Sometimes I have to tell myself to walk away and take a break so I can come back refreshed."
"This is super cliche, but it's also true. I am not good at delegating to others. When I become submersed in a project, I don't like to give away any of the control. While this can be good, it can also definitely inhibit the outcome of the project and my growth as a team player and individual. I am currently working on this, as I know it is a deficit."
As you probably already know, dealing with addiction is tricky. If you want to help someone, you must be sensitive to their needs and their situation. As a counselor, you need to be motivated to research the latest studies on ways to help addicts and be willing to try new techniques. Give an example that demonstrates your knowledge and understanding of the issue. If you have a success story, share it! Be sure to explain the approach and why it has been helpful in treatment.
"Motivational interviewing is a technique I've found extremely helpful with my patients. As they further understand the reasons behind their behaviors, they develop an awareness that triggers a new desire to change their behaviors."
"I'm always happy to learn new approaches. I've been lucky to have senior counselors in my current position to learn from. I can't say what has been and hasn't been successful because what works for one, sometimes doesn't work for others."
"I am open to trying new therapies with a variety of patients, at all times. With that said, my tried and true method is Cognitive Behavior Therapy. I find that by creating a pre-meditated strategy to risky situations, it helps to prevent patient relapse."
Addiction counselors must be very detail oriented, especially in matters surrounding patient documentation. Talk to the interviewer about your level of attentiveness when it comes to details on the job.
"My co-workers would describe my attention to detail as very strong. I can very easily point out spelling discrepancies in communication and will notice the small things. I think big-picture as well but have always had a knack for details."
"My attention to detail is a point that I have been working on a lot this past year. I am meticulous but, in the past, have pushed my documentation back a little bit. It's something I am conscious of and continually working on."
"I can't necessarily speak for them, but I think they would say that I have a pretty typical attention to detail. I make mistakes, but I usually catch them before passing my work on to intended recipient."
As an addiction counselor you may have to deal with different personalities, and some that make you feel uncomfortable. A good response to this question shows that you know how to handle it. Your reaction to strange or dangerous behavior is of utmost importance.
"If a patient is making me uncomfortable, I let them understand that their behavior is inappropriate and it will need to be reported. Generally this behavior includes patients who are threatening others or themselves. While it feels somewhat uncomfortable, I understand that this could mean life or death for them or someone they know. I take time to ask questions and follow protocol despite my feelings of discomfort."
"I had to work through this as I first began my education in addictions counseling. Initially, I thought I would be uncomfortable working around male patients with violent backgrounds but in actuality, I was not. So far, I have not encountered any situation that I could not handle due to discomfort."
"I make it a point to treat all of my patients the same but offenders have always been difficult to work around. While they may all be difficult I treat them with respect and provide the best care that I can. It's my responsibility as an addiction counselor."
Outreach programs typically include family members and loved ones to help addicts within a safe community environment. If you have experience in this area, talk about how you put the group together. Share what you learned from the experience. Tell the interviewer what worked and what didn't work. How did you involve family members in the process?
"I have led two outreach programs in my counseling career. One was incredibly successful and one was not. I believe the factor for success was a stronger goal plan and understanding of the community we were creating the program for."
"I haven't had the opportunity to facilitate any outreach groups yet but I look forward to the challenge."
"Not only have I facilitated groups but I have created them based on feedback and requests from the community."
Consulting with the patient's family can be extremely helpful in addictions treatment. Finding ways to include them in support groups or educational seminars can be highly constructive. Explain to the interviewer that you understand how family involvement can aid in the progress of your patients. Tell the interviewer how you reach out to family members and how you coach the family to know how to help their loved one.
"When involving family members in treatment, I start by setting clear boundaries for my patient. When family members are able to respect and follow boundaries I've found that it can be beneficial to treatment."
"I would involve the patients family if it would be beneficial to the recovery plan set up for my patient. Sometimes bringing the patients family into treatment only sets things back and is detrimental to healing. I would involve family slowly and strategically."
"Family members must first sign an agreement with me that they are devoted to following the patients' recovery plan, fully. If they are able to do this, I am happy to involve them in group sessions. I usually start by asking them to take a related educational seminar so that they become accustomed to some of the language we use in therapy sessions, and learn about the treatment methods used in addictions counseling. I want to set everyone up for success."
At one point or another, it is likely that a patient will get angry or upset with you. As you know, it probably has nothing to do with you. Perhaps you are close to a breakthrough and your patient is feeling vulnerable. Alternately, maybe they are detoxing or coming down. Give an example of something you would say to your patient in this situation.
"If I have a patient displaying feelings of anger towards me, I ask questions to understand where the patient is coming from. 'Why do you think that upset you? Does it remind you of a past experience?' I want to direct them towards the root of the problem, but also allow them to feel what they are feeling."
"If I have a session that gets a l little intense I'm sure to notify my leadership so they can take measures to ensure the situation does not escalate. In the session, I will take a step back and ask them if they are feeling comfortable. If they are not, I will take a step back and let them simmer on their feelings for a moment."
"I handle angry patients like a pro! I've been an addictions counselor for the past 12 years and have had my fair share of experiences. Generally, if a patient blows up with no warning, it means that I have hit the right spot. The emotional spot where they need to go in order to continue great progress."
This is a tough question! There are several skills that are absolutely essential for an addiction counselor. You need to be assertive enough to facilitate discussions and direct a patient, but you also need to listen and empathize. What characteristics do you think are the most important? Try to narrow it down and explain exactly why it's necessary for you to possess that trait.
"I think all counselors should have public speaking skills. Being able to address a group of patients in group therapy sessions is something that I'm very comfortable with."
"An important skill that every addiction counselor should posses is the ability to take clear and informative notes. My detailed and accurate notes come in handy if we have to transfer a patient to a different facility, for instance."
"In my years of experience as an addictions counselor, I have found that the ability to quickly build trust is the most important factor to success with a patient. If I am able to make a connection in a short period of time, my sessions are more effective."
Depending on how you define success, your accomplishment may be a breakthrough you had with a patient. It could also be that you facilitated a discussion in a support group that helped several people come to important realizations. Give an example that shows you care about your relationships with your patients and their success. When they accomplish something, that is a win for you!
"My greatest accomplishment is being able to relate to patients on a personal level. I've been where they are and, because of this, they are able to open up to me on a more intense level."
"My greatest accomplishment has been finishing up my Master's degree in Counseling this past year. I am thrilled with this accomplishment and very eager to get starting in my new counseling career."
"Every patient that I have helped has been a success for me, along the way. Looking at this, and the bigger picture, I would say that my greatest work accomplishment is the positive reputation that I have in this industry."
As an Addiction Counselor you advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. You provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors. As an Addiction Counselor you may work within mental health centers, community health centers, prisons, and may even support a private practice. Your day consists of evaluating your clients mental and physical health, addiction, or problem behavior and assess their readiness for treatment. You help your clients develop treatment goals and plans.
Typically a bachelor’s degree is required to be an Addiction Counselor. Depending on the employer, educational requirements can vary from a high school diploma and certification to a master’s degree. To become a licensed Addiction Counselor you'll need to research your state's requirement. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-issued exam and complete continuing education every year. As an Addictions Counselor you work with clients individually and in group sessions so effective communication skills are vital to the job. You display compassion, patience and practice your listening skills daily with your patients.
To prepare for your interview you will want to do your homework on the facility you are interested in working with. Brush up your resume to reflect direct work history you have that will show the interviewer that you will be an asset to their team. Because your line of work as an Addiction Counselor is often stressful be prepared to have the interview team ask you in a few different ways of how you deal with the stress. Have success stories and best practices in your back pocket ready to share if appropriate.