Do you truly know what it means to deliver tough love? Do you think you have what it takes to work with individuals who are dealing with an addiction problem? Do you think you are able to work with an addict’s family members in order to teach them how to help their family member? If you answered yes to each of these important questions, then a career as a substance abuse counselor may just be an ideal fit for you! It is common for universities to offer degree programs in this field at several different levels. Keep in mind, while an undergraduate degree will allow you to work in this industry, a master’s level degree will surely make it easier to find employment. Furthermore, in this industry there are many positions that will require that you have completed a graduate level degree before you will be considered for any applicable positions. Find that perfect addiction counseling training program below.
In order to be adequately prepared to enter this challenging field you will want to obtain an associate’s level degree or a bachelor’s degree. Remember, an associate’s degree can be completed in about two years, while a bachelor’s level degree will require about four years of coursework. In an associate’s degree program you will be learning how to perform basic counseling techniques; it is important to understand that in this degree program you will only be learning the very basics of what will be needed for an entry-level position. Generally speaking, this degree program will require you to study many different aspects of psychology, numerous methods of counseling, and the theories of addiction; you can also expect to be required to complete field work experience under the supervision of a more experienced counselor.
You will likely be required to complete courses such as: client management, counseling and interview techniques, the dynamics of a group, counseling in multicultural and special population settings, and use, abuse, and addiction theories. Should you decide to further your level of educational degree you can likely expect to study similar topics at a more extensive level. In addition, in graduate level degree programs you can expect to be required to complete an internship, dissertation, or capstone project. Spend a few minutes checking out the schools that are shown on our site. Feel free to request a complimentary information packet from any of the schools that are particularly appealing to you; this is sure to make it easier to make an informed decision regarding your potential career path. As a degree holder in substance abuse counseling (sometimes referred to as chemical dependency counseling) you will also be qualified to work in other counseling capacities. For instance, you could work as a family counselor, as a marriage counselor, or as a vocational counselor.
The chances are good you already know someone with a substance abuse problem. The problem is all around us. In 2014, 21.5 million people over the age of 12 suffered from substance abuse. Many of those battled both alcohol and drug addiction at the same time. Those are staggering statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration. Substance abuse is definitely a growing and serious problem, and people are needed to help those suffering from addiction. The career of a substance abuse counselor has much to offer to a caring and compassionate individual willing to help others. It can be stressful to listen to another’s person’s problems for several hours every day, so a substance abuse counselor needs to be able to deal with bad days. It’s important to remember that you are making a huge difference in the lives of your clients.
While success is not possible with ever client, a substance abuse counselor can look forward to the pride of helping many people develop the skills needed to turn their lives around. This career path is expected to have a 24 percent rate of increase in jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statics. That represents a tremendous need and prolonged job security. One of the reasons for the high demand in this field is the court system. With many prisons becoming too overcrowded, more and more judges are mandating substance rehabilitation as an alternative to prison for many offenders.
Substance abuse counselors are at the forefront to help people suffering from substance addiction. They provide support and treatment for help their clients change their addictive behavior. While specifics may vary, the substance abuse counselor will adhere to the following steps when working with a client:
1. The initial meeting will be a screening and evaluation of the client’s needs.
2. After the screening, the patient is officially taken into treatment.
3. The substance abuse counselor will familiarize the client with the goals and expectations of the treatment program.
4. At this stage, the counselor and client start working together. Problems and resolutions will be discussed.
5. The counselor will use available resources to help the client get needed help for housing or employment, if needed.
6. If necessary and possible, the counselor will meet with family and friends to help the client stay on the track to sobriety.
7. The counselor is available to respond to crisis situations as they occur.
8. In most cases, the substance abuse counselor does not work alone. He or she will consult with other staff members and supervisor for best treatment options.
While may substance abuse counselors treat a wide range of patients, some specialize in teens, elderly or veterans. Substance abuse counselling for teens is a specialized niche in the profession. A teen counselor will support teens with alcohol, drug and food issues. Substance abuse is very common among the young and is frequently seen as a normal recreational activity, not a problem. A teen counselor can help a teen understand the motivation for abusing substances and help modify the behavior. A teen counselor will work with individual clients, in a group setting and with families. This work can frequently be long-term in an effort to modify behavior, ensure that there are no relapses into unwanted behavior, all with the intent to guiding a teenager toward young adulthood.
A substance abuse counselor for teens needs to address the causes of the substance abuse, which can be family, peers or school. The counselor will be nonjudgmental and provide a safe environment, perhaps the only one available to the teenager. Teen substance abuse counselors will frequently help with basic life skills that teens need to recover from addiction. Since teenagers live with their family, family counseling is an important part of a teen’s recovery treatment program. This means the counselor has to sort through several, and possibly conflicting, input while remaining in control. Unlike substances abuse counselors for seniors or veterans, who already have inherent problems, it is the goal of the teen counselor to foresee and prevent future problems. The counselor is aware that if the abuse is not controlled, the teen faces serious future problems. Many employers of teen substances abuse counselors are open around the clock for crisis situations. A teen counselor may be called on at different and inconvenient hours, so that may be a consideration when considering such a career path.
While teen substance abuse counselors may get their foot in the door with an associate’s degree, most jobs require a more advanced degree, along with the necessary license. A teen substance abuse counselor will be dealing with families in crisis. This requires a great deal of genuine empathy and a true desire to help people. The counselor will be dealing with adult family members, but must also be able to empathize with a teenager and his or her interests. This is important in order to gain the teen’s trust. The counselor must be able to relate to the teen’s situation and fears. The field of teen substance abuse counselors is expected to grow by 31 percent through 2022. The average salary in this specialize niche is $47,000.
Counseling the elderly on substance abuse can be especially challenging because the problem usually remains undiagnosed and undertreated. Yet it is a rapidly growing problem among an aging population usually relating to alcohol and abuse of prescription substances. According to the Psychiatric Times, 11 percent of elderly people may be abusing their prescription drugs. The unique circumstances of the elderly require special knowledge and training by substance abuse counselors. Since many elderly people require legitimate medications for their health, use and abuse can overlap and be difficult to diagnose. The elderly do not take drugs for recreation, but to alleviate mental and physical pain. When combined with alcohol, the problems exacerbate even more. Physicians are reluctant to “deprive” the elderly of their drugs. Since both physical and mental changes occur during this state of life, even prescription drugs can lead to addiction and dependence, thus leading to further problems with falling risk and dementia.
A substance abuse counselor for the elderly needs to understand about the drugs that are necessary for health management versus drugs that are being abused. Such a counselor will also need to follow-up to ensure that there are no relapses. Veterans may have special problems with substance abuse due to their experiences in military situations. Substance abuse counselors can obtain training that specifically covers the problems of veterans and their families and how to help them. A certificate of training dealing specifically with substance abuse counseling for veterans can be obtained and will be discussed later in this article. Veterans can suffer from alcohol, prescription medication and recreational street drugs abuse. Counselors at VA hospitals provide awareness of and help with these problems. These counselors are trained in the signs and symptoms of veteran addiction - posttraumatic stress disorder, insomnia, displays of temper, physical pain or depression. Both individual and group therapy can help veterans reduce their dependency on drugs and alcohol. These sessions will help veterans become motivated to change their behavior and improve their relationships with family and friends. Counselling may include referrals to 12-step programs and provide insight as to how substance abuse relates to other issues that affect veterans. VA counselors may provide medication to help with cravings, withdrawal and continued abstinence. A counselor for veterans needs knowledge in how these medications work.
In addition to alleviating substance dependency, VA substance abuse counselors will help with housing, employment and general health care for qualified veterans.Special certificate programs are available for counselors wishing to specialize in working with veterans. These can be obtained after completing 20 or more hours of online courses.
The online curriculum includes:
1. Treatment for substance abuse.
2. Cognitive therapy for veterans and service personnel.
3. Dealing with depression
4. Dealing with domestic situations and stress.
5. Handling PTSD.
6. Identifying suicidal tendencies in veterans.
7. Working with homeless veterans.
The cost of the Veterans Behavioral Health Certificate is $350.00. You can take a year to complete the curriculum of 15 separate courses. While many substance abuse counselors work with outpatients, there are jobs in in-house treatment facilities where clients remain anywhere from a few days to several months. The job requirements for working in a treatment facility are the same as working with outpatients, but because the treatment is more intensive and will include detox, cognitive behavioral therapy is a normal part of such treatment. A substance abuse counselor should be familiar with such treatment and have a background in cognitive behavioral therapy through his or her college curriculum. Courses in learning and psychology are recommended.
Substance abuse counselors work in a variety of sites, such as family service organizations, hospitals, substance abuse clinics, mental health centers, treatment facilities and the local and state governments. Addiction counselors work alongside social workers, psychiatrists, nurses and physicians for a coordinated treatment plan. Counselors specializing in adolescents may work directly with school systems. Schools are hiring substance abuse counselors for at-risk students. Many view this as a means to keep certain students from turning to crime as an outlet. This kind of counselling can be active or preventative. Some substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work in private practice, where they work alone or with a group of counselors or other professionals. These counselors manage their practice as a business. This includes working with clients and insurance companies to receive payment for their services. In addition, they market their practice to bring in new clients. Substance abuse counselors working with outpatients usually work normal daytime hours. Counselors in inhouse facilities work 24/7 shifts and may be on call when not working.
Average Salary for Substance Abuse Counselors
The national average income in 2014 was over $40,000.00, with advanced degrees leading to even higher salaries.
What Skills Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Need?
1. An understanding of addiction and its causes.
2. The ability to communicate with a variety of types of people.
3. Handling crisis and emergency situations.
4. Record keeping and case management skills
5. Assessment of dangers and risks to an individual.
6. Knowledge of local and federal resources.
7. The ability to use his or her judgment.
8. Patience to deal and manage a variety of issues and people
9. Many counselors use a 12-step program in the course of their therapy. This helps clients deal with stress, rebuild or strengthen personal and professional relationships, or find a new career altogether. These are skills that a client will need in order to get and stay sober, and the substance abuse counselor is a crucial part of seeing the client through this process. There is more to substance abuse counselling than simply getting a client sober. Without proper resources and follow-up, the client may revert back to old habits.
Educational and Other Requirements to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor
To become a substance abuse counselor, you need a degree in counseling, work the required number of supervised hours, pass a background check, and acquire a state license. While many substance abuse counselors have a Master’s and even PhD in the field of counselling or therapy, you can use the title of counselor with only an associate’s degree in an addiction-related field. While an Associate’s degree may qualify you for a license in some states, you need to consider that any prospective employer will see job candidates with four-year or more advanced degrees. Thus, a two-year degree may limit your career opportunities. You can, of course, start with an Associates’ degree and continue taking the necessary credit classes for a Bachelor’s degree and beyond.
A Bachelor’s degree is far more usual for a substance abuse counselor. General four-year courses can be in Addictions Therapy or Alcohol and Drug Counseling. This will provide a solid foundation for more specialized studies for a graduate degree. Many colleges offer actual on-the-job work experience as part of the curriculum where students work in a hospital or clinical situation. This is real life experience and a valuable educational tool. Such work also counts toward the hours needed for licensing.
Any on-the-job training is extremely important for substance abuse counselors. In some cases, on-the-job training can take the place of a college degree, with a certain number of hours required to prepare a person to become certified. Real world training can prepare substance abuse counselors for crisis situations, exposing them to distinct personalities and the addictions of actual clients. If you have a Bachelor’s degree in a different field, you can still work as a substance abuse counselor by getting a certificate in abuse counseling. Some jobs in substance abuse counseling require a Master’s degree. Such a degree will certainly help you become a more desirable job candidate. If you plan on having your own, private practice, you will need 3,000 hours of clinical work, along with your Master’s degree, to open your own office.
Interestingly, there are substance abuse counseling programs that require the counselor to be a former addict with two to three years of sobriety. The reasoning comes from Alcoholics Anonymous, which holds that only former and rehabilitated alcoholics can help other alcoholics. This means that some substance abuse counseling jobs may value a personal history of addiction over a degree. A few years of sobriety will be seen as a valuable skill to be passed along to others.
If you decide to work for a doctoral degree, it will cost you additional money, and, at the same time, open more career opportunities. Consider the following:
1. A PhD will put you on top of the earnings scale.
2. You can open your own office, teach at the university level while still working as a substance abuse counselor, and train other counselors in a hospital or clinical environment.
3. A doctorate degree program can take two to four years to complete, with an annual in-state tuition of over $6,000 and an out-of-state tuition of over $16,000. That is a considerable time and financial investment. There are, of course, grants, internships and other financial aid available in many cases.
On-Line Degrees in Substance Abuse Counseling
Online degrees for substance abuse counseling are available at all levels. It is, however, important to ascertain that the school is accredited.
Online Associate Degrees:
You will need a high school diploma or equivalent to apply. Online Associate degrees in substance abuse counseling require between 85-95 units to earn a degree, and take between two to three years to complete. Students will need to complete a certain amount of hands-on training at approved facilities.
The curriculum for an online Associate degree in substance abuse counseling will include courses in psychology, sociology and English.
Online Bachelor's Degrees
You need a high school diploma and a high GPA, and letters of recommendation for an online Bachelor’s degree program. Such a degree can be obtained within four years after completing from 120 to 133 credit hours. The general curriculum with consist of classes in science, humanities, social sciences, pharmacology, and specific addiction counseling courses. Some online programs offer hands-on supervised training at approved facilities. This would be an important consideration when choosing an online degree program.
Online Master's Degrees
A Bachelor’s degree is required for consideration into an online Master’s degree program. Students in a Master degree program will receive hands-on training at agencies that provide substance abuse counseling. The curriculum will include group counseling, psychotherapy principles, ethics, legal issues, diagnostic methods and research. There can be specialized classes in sexuality, public health, crisis intervention, child and teen counseling and trauma.
Online Doctoral Degrees
A Doctoral degree will allow you to become a licensed psychologist. One large benefit of having a PhD is that you can work unsupervised. To qualify for an online Doctoral program to become a substance abuse counselor, you need a Master’s degree in counseling or any related degree. You will face up to five years of studies, a dissertation and an internship. A doctoral program will require hands-on clinical and classroom experience, as well as research. The curriculum will cover how to interview and diagnose patients, human development, dealing with teenagers, psychopharmacology, and other course work. You will get hands-on experience working at an inhouse or outpatient facility dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.
Each state has its own specific requirements and agency for substance abuse counseling licensing. While details may differ, every state requires some work-related experience. Since there are various levels of licensing, you can work in entry-level positions to accumulate the needed hours for further licensing. For full accreditation, a licensing agency will usually want 2,000 hours of substance abuse-related work experience. Character background screening is a part of the licensing process, and you may get fingerprinted. Some agencies require a number of references. As we’ve discussed, a prior addiction does not necessarily disqualify you from getting a license. But you will need to prove sobriety, usually for two to three prior years. Most states will have a written examination, while some require an oral presentation. In both cases, you need to submit case studies of your work along with the application. Some states will also give a test on laws as they relate to substance abuse counseling. With licensing comes a title. You may become a “certified” counselor or a “licensed” counselor. The exact meaning of the terms varies from state to state and ultimate doesn’t mean very much.
Joining a professional organization will allow you to attend conferences, continuing education events, and meet others in your chosen field that can help you. You can become a member in most professional organizations while still a student. Professional addiction agencies such as the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network has a lot of resources. Another organization is the National Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals. For graduate-level students, the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors has a number of useful resources.