Addiction counseling is one of the most challenging jobs in the mental health profession. In addition to treating the client suffering from a substance abuse disorder, addiction counselors are often called upon to work in collaboration with individuals in other professions, such as attorneys, public assistance workers, employees in vocational offices, and other family members. Unfortunately, as important of an occupation as it is, addiction counseling as a whole shows a high burnout rate . According to the Addiction and Technology Transfer Center (ATTC), National Office (2009), addiction counselors with less than five years in the field are more likely to quit their job or leave the counseling filed entirely.

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Burnout is defined as experiencing long-term fatigue and reduced joy and interest in work. Although burnout often originates from employment, it can affect other aspects of one’s life, including friendships, and social and intimate relationships. Addiction counselors need to be aware of burnout, in order to prevent it. Burnout not only affects the well-being of counselors, but makes an addiction counselor less likely to perform one’s job to the best of one’s ability. If a counselor is burned out, their clients will also suffer, not getting as high of a quality of treatment as they need.

Addiction counselors also need to be concerned with stress. Stress and burnout are interconnected. Stress can lead to psychological and physical issues, such as heart disease, anxiety, greater substance use, and has even been linked to other diseases, such as cancer. In a study by Lent (2010), Lent interviewed counselors from various settings to identify stressors that counselors face and methods these professionals employ to handle stress. Many participants stated that negative organizational factors contributed to their stress levels, such as pressure to complete paperwork, long work hours, an overload of clients, and feeling that the level of stress outweighs workplace satisfaction. While stress cannot be completely avoided, it can be mitigated to prevent negative effects. Self-care is a positive way that addiction counselors can avoid stress and prevent burnout. Some helpful tactics include walking during lunch breaks, meditation, exercise, venting feelings to friends, enjoying recreational activities, and connecting to one’s spirituality .

Stress and burnout can affect addiction counselors. However, using self-care and becoming aware of stress and burnout can help counselors reduce their negative impact, leading to an overall positive job performance and satisfaction.

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  • Lent, J. (2010). Stressors and stress management of counselors: findings. Retrieved from
  • Office, A. a. (2009). Understanding America’s substance abuse disorders treatment workforce. Kansas City: ATTC.