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7 Tips for Starting Your Education in Addiction Counseling

7 Tips for Starting Your Education in Addiction Counseling

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Imagine a job where you change not just one person’s life but multiple people’s lives for the better.

Drug abuse has a ripple effect that spreads widely from the addict to their friends and family to their coworkers and beyond. When you help someone overcome drug addiction, you contribute positively to that ripple effect.

An addiction counselor will not only help the one person who needs help the most, the addict, but they could also help the addict’s friends and family members, coworkers, and everyone else that the addict has affected.

In short, you might make a huge difference in many people’s lives by helping just one person. 

But how does one become an addiction counselor? If you have a knack for listening and giving people the hard truth, you may have a future in addiction counseling. 

By the time you finish reading this article, you should understand the basic steps to becoming an addiction counselor. 

1. Know What an Addiction Counselor Does

An addiction counselor works with addicts to help them overcome their addiction. They take classes focused on alcohol and drug counseling studies to gain the skills, methods, and techniques that help their clients find success. 

Drug addiction counselors support their patients through a variety of methods. Here are a few of the common tasks for a drug addiction counselor: 

  • Evaluate the extent of a patient’s addiction.
  • Discuss a patient’s alcohol and drug use with the patient.
  • Listen to patients and help them process and share their feelings.
  • Help the patient become aware of negative reactions and behaviors.
  • Identify the patient’s triggers that lead to alcohol and drug use.
  • Teach the patient healthy coping skills.
  • Work with patients to develop short- and long-term plans to maintain sobriety.
  • Provide support for a patient’s psychological and emotional needs.
  • Facilitate group and individual counseling sessions at both outpatient and inpatient treatment centers.
  • Facilitate patient meetings with patient family and friends.
  • Implement drug addiction treatment plans.

Thus, a drug addiction counselor needs organizational, relational, and intellectual skills to help a patient overcome their drug addiction.

2. Research Education Requirements

When becoming a counselor, you should research the requirements for becoming a drug addiction counselor in your area. Each state has a different experience, educational, and licensing requirements.

The type of practice you’d like to work in will also determine the training and education you will need. Look at your state’s requirements before selecting an educational program to ensure that your education matches your needs and desires.

With that said, some counseling education programs will give you a jump start into a bigger program or certification. If you can’t afford to attend a full program, look into local programs that will give you the initial classes you need.

3. Start Official Training

Now that you’ve determined you want to delve into the counseling career world, seek a relevant degree or certification. Many addiction counselors have bachelor’s degrees. Others have training in social sciences like sociology or psychology focusing on mental health counseling.

In some cases, you can accomplish a lot with education focused on substance abuse training.  Training may qualify you for the following jobs:

  • Case manager
  • Alcohol and drug counselor 
  • Recovery coach
  • A human services program specialist
  • Residential advisor or assistant
  • Outreach Specialist
  • Addictions counselor assistant
  • Prevention Specialist

Such basic training may allow you to get your foot in the door for drug and alcohol addiction counseling careers. Then, once you’re working in the field, you could continue to pursue educational opportunities, sometimes paid for by your employer.

4. Seek Clinical Experience

Many states require their counselors to complete a certain number of clinical hours. You may be able to open your career options by volunteering at a clinic. You could encounter a variety of cases and can learn from the counselors working there. 

Look for internship or practicum opportunities near you. Seek out volunteer opportunities so you can learn as much as possible about your field while receiving valuable clinical experience. Volunteer work could look great on a resume as you begin to seek a job after you’ve finished your official training. 

5. Take Licensing Exam

You may have various career opportunities, but you limit yourself if you do not take the proper licensing exam. Once you’ve completed the necessary classes and training as required by your state, you may need to take a licensing exam. 

Learn what your state requires, so you’re prepared to study for the right exam. The exam typically focuses on information about proper counseling procedures and the data surrounding addiction. Look for online resources or study groups to help you prepare for the required exams. 

6. Find Certification

To advance your career more, seek certification as well as licensing. The California Substance Abuse Counselor may offer relevant certification exams for drug addiction counselors. Such certification may advance your skills and demonstrate to your clients that you understand the field. 

The CCAPP and CAADE provide different levels of certification. You could achieve one of three levels of the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and one of two levels of Licensed Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor. CCAPP Credentialing could help you earn your LAADC, a non-governmental license. 

7. Stay Educated

After passing all of your state licensing programs, seek further education opportunities. Some states require drug addiction counselors to complete a number of continuing education hours every few years. 

It is important to know what your state requires and stay compliant with those requirements.

Even if your state does not have such mandates, you will be a better counselor if you stay up-to-date on data and best practices. Serve your clients well by staying educated even when a governing body doesn’t require you. 

As you seek continuing education opportunities, look at areas that will broaden your experience. For example, if you don’t feel comfortable with group therapy training, look for opportunities to learn more about that topic.  

Seek a Career in Addiction Counseling

To change the world, you can start with one person who needs help. A career in addiction counseling can be an incredibly rewarding occupation. You will see your clients’ lives change and know that helping them also helps everyone connected to them. 

Are you interested in a career in addiction counseling? If so, contact us. We can help you get started in this incredibly rewarding field. 

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