What Are the Requirements to Be a Drug Alcohol Counselor?

As a drug alcohol counselor, you help patients who have a substance addiction. Your work helps to put individuals and their families on the road back to a healthy lifestyle. If you enjoy helping others and having a positive role in their lives, this may be a career for you. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The Role of a Drug Alcohol Counselor

As a drug alcohol counselor, you'll work with people who are suffering from addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal substances. You'll help your patients notice problem behaviors in relation to their addiction. You may work with patients in a one-on-one setting or in group sessions. As a counselor, you develop programs for the individual that will help provide ways to cope with addiction and promote recovery. You also create programs to help the friends and family of those who are addicted cope with issues that may be a result of the addiction. In the community, you will work to educate community members on different ways to prevent addiction.

Important Facts About Drug Alcohol Counselors

On-the-Job Training Internships available the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Key Skills Empathy, close listening, clear communication, patience, social nuance
Work Environment Outpatient care centers, residential intellectual and development disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities, individual and family services, hospitals, state and local government
Similar Occupations Mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, physicians and surgeons, psychologists, rehabilitation counselors, school and career counselors

Education Requirements

State licensing requirements and the level of autonomy that you desire usually dictate the type of degree you must have. You could work with only a high school diploma, on-the-job training, and certification. However, if you want to work in private practice, you'll need a master's degree.

Courses in a master's degree program could include substance abuse counseling, family treatment, rehabilitation research, counseling theories, and counseling ethics. You may be required to complete a practicum and internship as well. Certificate, associate's degree, and bachelor's degree programs are other options available to you if you aren't interested in running your own practice. These programs teach similar concepts, but certificate and associate's degree programs tend to focus less on research and the theoretical aspects of the field. You're usually required to complete a practicum in these programs.

Licensure Requirements

If you plan to go into private practice, you'll need to earn a license. Licensure requirements usually include a master's degree and between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. You'll also need to pass a state-approved exam in order to receive your license. If you don't plan to go into private practice, your state may still require you to obtain licensure or certification; however, the eligibility requirements differ. Some states don't require a specific degree, but you'll still need to pass an exam.

Job Potential and Earnings

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that job growth for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors would increase by approximately 23% from 2016-2026 (www.bls.gov). Because mental health and addiction counseling are increasingly covered by insurance, there is an expected increase in demand for drug alcohol and other counselors. Another factor contributing to the expected employment increase is the fact that drug offenders are increasingly required to attend treatment and counseling programs. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median annual salary of $44,630 in May 2018, according to the BLS.

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