Substance Abuse Counseling Shortage

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Substance Abuse Counseling 

A substance abuse counselor is a mental health counselor who focuses on treating patients with a chemical dependency to alcohol or drugs. This could be people who are already addicted or people with a fear that they may become addicted. They may also provide substance abuse counseling to families of individuals with substance use disorders. 

The Reality
Over eight percent of the adult population is battling addiction and, according to the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), health insurance can be used to pay for medical, surgical, and behavioral health services, which includes substance abuse counseling and treatment. Behavioral health services treat both mental illness and substance use disorders. Substance abuse counseling is available through Lincoln Behavioral Health in Lincoln, Nebraska with Karla Wiedel MA, LIMHP, LADC. 

Karla Wiedel MA, LIMHP, LADC is a Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor at Lincoln Behavioral Health. Karla believes mental health is as critical as physical health, and substance abuse counseling helps with both. 

Treatment Services Offered

Counselors at Lincoln Behavioral Health are fully licensed and specialize in evidence-based behavioral health, specifically substance abuse counseling and treatment. They provide integrated behavioral healthcare, in conjunction with primary medical care and psychiatric referral (off-site) when necessary, to effectively assist patients in achieving their goals with: 

  • Individual Therapy

  • Family Therapy

  • Care Coordination

  • Aftercare Planning

Effective substance abuse treatment often involves early intervention with customized substance abuse counseling and medication by a trained professional. A full substance abuse evaluation is necessary for making the diagnosis. Medications for mental and substance use disorders provide relief, so people can manage their symptoms and use other strategies for recovery. 

The Shortage
Every year, one in four substance abuse counselors choose to leave the profession entirely. They are underpaid, but that is not as significant as the fact that the demands of the job are rising with the increase in substance abuse disorders. This, paired with the gravity of taking on the emotional pain of their patients, makes burnout all the more prevalent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse Counselors make about $40,000 a year and have paperwork, planning, and emotional exertion that far exceeds their workday. 

Our country has enough facilities to provide substance abuse counseling, but not enough support staff. Then, when a patient gets off the waiting list and can receive substance abuse counseling, they often have problems with insurance and funding for these services. There are many hurdles. However, much has been accomplished in terms of initiatives to help with insurance and access since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. 

What Are We Doing About It?
Additionally, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration says their agency understands that there is a shortage and they are working on reaching out to high schools, colleges, and are developing training and curricula to increase interest and substance abuse counselors in the country.

Substance abuse counseling appointments are available at Lincoln Behavioral Health Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. To schedule an appointment, call 402-483-4571 or visit our website:


Christine Weeks