How to Start a Career as an Addiction Counselor

Especially in light of the American Opioid Crisis, more and more people — from all walks of life — are currently struggling with addiction.

In fact, recent studies confirm that one out of every ten is currently addicted to some kind of drug or another mood altering substance like alcohol.

Maybe a friend or family member has fallen prey to addiction. Perhaps you’ve even faced addiction yourself, and have come out on the other side. Whatever your motivation?

You’ve thought about becoming an addiction counselor.

You want to help other people to get their lives back on track. You want them to realize that a life free from drugs or alcohol isn’t only possible. It’s also much better than continuing to live as an addict.

But what exactly does it take to become an addiction counselor?

Read on to find out.

What Is An Addiction Counselor?

Before we get into a deeper discussion about how to become an addiction counselor?

Let’s first take a look at what you can expect your career to look like.

As a counselor and therapist, you’ll work with both patients and their families to treat the underlying emotional and mental causes of addiction. You’ll help addicts learn how to deal with anxiety and depression.

You’ll also help them with past trauma and any other major triggers that push them towards drug use.

You’ll also help them to develop healthy coping strategies and motivational ideas in order to remain clean and sober once they leave treatment. Together, you and the patient will work to identify what causes the addicts to use.

You will channel that desire towards a healthy path instead.

In some cases, you may also help patients to find long-term support groups, employment opportunities, or sober living facilities.

You could work in a prison, a hospital, an addiction center, or even alongside social workers and psychiatrists. You’ll create patient evaluations and reports, interview, and treat patients.

You’ll also keep records, and work with other mental health professionals to develop effective treatment plans.

You may even administer drug testing and screenings, which you can learn more about and view here to see the many different types of screenings available.

How To Become A Counselor

Now that you have a better understanding of what exactly an addiction counselor does?

Let’s take a look at the many paths you can take towards becoming one.

Thanks especially to a rise in online learning, there are lots of different ways you can make your dreams come true.

Getting Your Associate’s Degree

Looking to finish up your education for counseling in two years?

If so, then an associate’s degree in either counseling/therapy or psychology might be the right choice for you. You’ll likely study up on basic psychology, group and individual counseling methods.

You’ll also learn psychological theory, and even basic case management.

Keep in mind that an associate’s degree will likely only qualify you for more entry-level positions. Also, your associate’s degree might not be enough in all states and in all types of facilities.

Likely, you’ll work in schools or in an administrative position at a sober living facility. It’s a great way to jumpstart your career, knowing that you can always continue your education down the line.

A Bachelor’s Degree In Addiction Therapy

If you’re interested in a higher level career in addiction therapy, you may want to earn your bachelor’s in counseling.

You’ll learn the basics of pharmacology, the psychology and sociology of addiction, how to diagnose addictive behavior, and even how to give proper psychological evaluations.

Of course, this will take anywhere from 3-4 years to earn, but again, there are plenty of online bachelor degree options that will allow you to go at your own pace.

A Master’s Degree In Addiction Therapy

If you want to start your career at the highest level, we suggest earning your master’s degree in addiction therapy.

This will also allow you the most flexibility in terms of your career options. You’ll graduate knowing not only how to treat current addicts, but also how to counsel and prevent addiction in the first place.

You’ll also be able to choose a specialization option, meaning you can choose to become a drug counselor, work at a specific kind of facility, or work with a certain age group or demographic.

Keep in mind that you’ll also likely need to complete an internship and draft a thesis statement. Both of these things are excellent opportunities for getting your name out there and meeting others involved in the field.

Other Things To Know

Once you’ve earned your degree — whichever option you choose — you’ll need to finish a few more things before you’re ready to practice.

You’ll need to complete anywhere from 2,000-4,000 practicum hours, where you’ll be supervised in the field. This will help to ensure you’re able to give correct and adequate assistance to patients.

Also, it will educate you about the ethics of counseling.

Then, you’ll be able to earn your licensing or certification exam. Once passed, keep in mind that you’ll probably need to retake your certification exam about every two years in order to keep it active.

In every state, you need a certification in order to be able to practice. You’ll need to take things like the National Counseling Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam.

Interested In Helping Addicts?

We hope that this post has taught you about the different educational paths you can take in order to become an addiction counselor.

Keep in mind that you should use the networking opportunities provided to you by both your practicum hours and your general coursework. Additionally, we recommend setting up a website and blog that will allow you to advertise your services online.

You can look for job opportunities in online classifieds, job boards, or even through word of mouth.

Addiction counseling isn’t a job for the faint of heart, but it’s one of the most rewarding career paths out there.

Want to learn more about how you can land your dream job?

Visit our website to find out how to start your career path today.