Addictions Counsellor

Addictions counsellors are trained to help those people whose habits or use of certain substances have gone beyond recreational activities. The counsellors understand that there could be both psychological and physical reasons for addictive behaviour. Instead of making their clients feel ashamed or weak, addictions counsellors address each person’s addictive personality, and try to help them recognize and deal with their addictions, so that they can get their habits under control.

Gambling, for example, can be very exciting. The thrilling expectation of winning, the risk, the odds, the overwhelming sense of control and satisfaction experienced when you do win! Even ‘two-rand’ raffles at social events such as fetes or charity bazaars, are exciting for these reasons. And, if such a raffle is thrilling for participants, imagine the rush of excitement if winning thousands of rands from a casino slot machine

Often, people develop cravings for those things that make them feel good. People become addicted to gambling, shopping, as well as alcohol and other drugs, both physically and psychologically. The blissful feeling that comes when you win at the slot machines, the emotion-dulling effects of consuming alcohol, etc., can easily become a necessity in your daily life. People can become totally dependent on these addictions, making it impossible for them to lead their lives without gambling or drugs. Some people will shop or gamble their way into serious debt, or kill themselves by an excess of drug use.

Addictions counsellors work with government agencies, private companies and non-profit organisations who work to promote health, prevent addiction, and who intervene and where necessary, initiate treatment. Their work includes counselling in addiction programmes, women’s and men’s shelters, correctional facilities, health services, schools and community centres. After identifying the issue at hand, a counsellor focuses on the client’s strengths and weaknesses and meets regularly to advise, support and encourage the recovery process. Often this includes getting their clients into an appropriate step-by-step support programme.  

Along with regular sessions with their clients, addictions counsellors prepare reports on each client’s progress, consult other social and health care workers about clients, and keep up to date with developments in treatment techniques. It may be necessary to work evenings, weekend or holiday shifts.

Personal Requirements

  • have a genuine interest in helping people understand the root of their problems
  • able to work with people of all types
  • mature and organised
  • have a professional approach
  • a creative problem solver
  • good at communicating orally and in writing
  • good at analysing information and behaviour
  • sensitive to everyone’s feelings, including those people with backgrounds, cultures and beliefs that differ from yours
  • honest and trustworthy
  • willing to work with other social workers and counsellors in an effort to help their client

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate (Matric), or equivalent with a Bachelor's pass. 
Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended Subjects: Mathematics

In addition, meet the university minimum entry requirements.

What to Study

In order to work as an addictions counsellor it is advisable to become a member of a professional organisation. This will indicate your dedication to your work, and create a sense of trust between you and your clients. In order to become a member of such an organisation, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in  psychology,  a master’s degree in psychology, social work or addiction studies, and then complete two years of supervised, post-degree work in addictions therapy and counselling. You can practice as an addiction counsellor without joining a professional organisation, but in that case, you may choose to work in the public sector, as it will be more difficult to attract clients in the private sphere.



  • government agencies
  • private companies
  • correctional facilities
  • hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities
  • schools and community centres
  • private practice

Further Information

Alcoholics Anonymous - South Africa
National Helpline: 0861 HELPAA (435722)
General Service Office
28 Hennie Alberts Street, Brackenhurst
Alberton (South of Johannesburg)
Tel: (011) 867-5950

Please note, organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous are associations whose primary purpose is to stay sober and help others to recover.  This association does not employ counsellors as such.  However, they welcome counsellors in training to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as guests.  

Getting Started

  • speak to an addiction counsellor about this career
  • read up on addictions such as gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, etc.
  • try to do voluntary work for organisations dealing with people with addictions

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Interview with an Addictions Counsellor


Careers without maths

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