Substance Abuse Counselor

Full Time: 40 hours/week

Bilingual Required: (English/Spanish)

Health Benefits Available/Open Until Filled

About the Position

Under the supervision of a Clinical Supervisor or designee, performs outreach, intervention assessment, and substance use counseling services to students. During the current COVID-19 Shelter in Place Order, services will be provided through a hybrid model utilizing both face to face (for crisis and urgent cases) and through telehealth.  This is an important time in our communities and youth are in need of supports. These positions are critical to providing youth in our community with effective and supportive substance use disorder services.


About the Agency

Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance, Inc (PVPSA) has been the leader of youth prevention and intervention services in the Pajaro Valley and throughout Santa Cruz County. We believe that every young person in our community should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. We are committed to helping them identify those dreams and support them in that quest. Our mission is to improve the quality of life of students and families in the Pajaro Valley by providing health education, prevention services, mental health services, and by advocating for public policies that protect the health of our community.


About Job

Under the supervision of the Behavioral Health Director and/or Clinical Supervisor, provide substance abuse prevention services to groups and individual students at middle and high schools and at community based counseling centers.  The Substance Abuse Counselor functions as a regular member of the on-site school social-emotional and student support team. This position assists youth in planning and carrying out drug-free activities, facilitates support and coordinates groups with a focus on the following areas:

  • Help chemically-involved students gain a clear understanding of their relationship with chemicals and identify options for change using the Seven Challenges curriculum.  

  • Assess the nature of students’ alcohol or other drug abuse by administering ASAM clinical assessment and by gathering data from student records, school staff, student interview, parent or community agency contact

  • Work with violators of school regulations as well as with voluntary clients.

  • Provide support to recovering students, including those who are returning to school from a treatment facility

  • When appropriate, working directly with clients’ family members and other support people, in family counseling and collateral sessions

  • Consult with school staff regarding student referrals

  • Recommend a course of action and provide brief treatment

  • Screen student for appropriate group

  • Provide support groups

  • Work with other PVPSA programs and local treatment agencies to refer and facilitate recovery

  • Disseminate information about alcohol and other drugs and their problems to students

  • Participate in staff in-service trainings regarding alcohol/drug related problems

  • Assist in providing drug prevention trainings at schools and throughout the district

  • Participate in educational programs for parents and community, when appropriate


Employment Standards


Knowledge of:

  • Psychological and social aspects and characteristics of emotional disturbances and mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders

  • Principles and methods of counseling and the accepted techniques for assessing psycho-social behavior

  • Approaches to accessing available community resources for adolescents and their families

  • The stages of adolescent development


Ability to:

  • Assess and diagnose all types of client behavioral, substance use and emotional actions/problems and develop and implement effective and appropriate treatment plans

  • Run effective process groups and individual sessions with adolescents

  • Operate computer systems for purposes of entering data and clinical notes

  • Work with a diverse group of at-risk students and/or youth and their families

  • Learn and operate smoothly in complex school district and sites system

  • Quickly develop rapport with both students and school site staff/administration

  • Establish and maintain a variety of case notes, client records and other required documentation;

  • Model flexible, non-judgmental, and non-defensive behavior in interactions with  clients, school staff, and co-workers

  • Manage time well and organize work to meet all document deadlines within County and Agency Alcohol and Drug Program (ADP) system

  • Communicate effectively, oral and written form and maintain a high level of organization



Any combination of training and experience which would provide the required knowledge and abilities is qualifying. Minimum qualifications are as follows:


  • Three years of experience in a recognized public or private agency providing mental health counseling or substance abuse counseling, or case management service to individuals with mental or substance abuse disorders or emotional disturbances.


  • BA Degree from a college or university in counseling, psychology, other mental health related field and two years full time experience in a recognized public or private agency providing mental health counseling or substance abuse counseling, or case management service to individuals with mental or substance abuse disorders or emotional disturbances.

License Requirements:

Possession of a valid CA Class C Driver’s License, or the ability to provide suitable transportation; Be certified as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor or be licensed as a mental health professional, OR within six (6) months of the date of hire, all non-licensed individuals will comply with pertinent CCR Code Title 9 regulations and must be registered to obtain certification as an AOD Counselor by one of the approved certifying organizations (CCR, Section 13035 (f).  PVPSA will assist non-licensed individuals in obtaining the certification by an eligible and certified organization.

Must be willing to work some evening hours and/or weekends for special events. Valid California driver's license and clearance for agency vehicle insurance coverage.   Negative fingerprint screening and tuberculosis skin test/x-ray.


$35,606-$43,783; starting salary commensurate with experience


Eligible for medical, dental and other employee benefits 

If interested, please submit a letter of interest, resume and a minimum of three references (with contact information) to:  


c/o Human Resources

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© 2020 All rights reserved. PVPSA is a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so all donations are tax deductible. (Tax ID # 770269322).