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Alcohol and Drug Counseling Studies: Certificate Program Overview

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Only the most passionate people can make a career of helping others in times of need, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved.

According to the BLS, as of April 2019, Over the next five years, there will be jobs for more than 320,000 positions for alcohol and drug counselors in the United States.

These dedicated professionals save lives every day. They provide timely support to people with substance abuse disorders. Those who have a heart for helping people know that addiction can break apart people and families, and have selected a career to help families through these difficult times.

Fulfilling work is waiting for you.

What is Alcohol and Drug Counseling?

There are many ways to enter the field of drug and alcohol abuse counseling, but most states require some type of certification before you can work directly with substance use disorders.

At InterCoast, we provide an Alcohol and Drug Counseling Certificate that’s fully available online or on-campus, depending on your preference. Many students who want to change careers choose this certificate in substance abuse counseling. We are often the first step toward a rewarding career in this helping profession.

The field itself is changing at a rapid pace. It’s an exciting time to learn new treatments and intervention methods. The raging opioid crisis and the rise of dangerous synthetic drugs such as fentanyl have fueled the need for change and more workers.

Interested in this growing and potentially important field? This overview provides crucial information for prospective students and others.

What It Takes

Everyone wants to be successful in their career, but it takes certain qualities to be good alcohol and drug counselor. It’s not easy, and counselors need to be naturally non-judgemental and caring.

Integrity is crucial to the position, and confidentiality standards are key to best practices. It’s also imperative to learn compassion practices, listening skills, patience, and interpersonal skills.

Cultivate a talent for listening to others without judgment — for it is the bulk of your work. You will also help diagnose and create treatment plans for achieving long-term sobriety or recovery.

Depending on your location and job opportunities in your area, you may be able to specialize in one type of client. Others choose to work with many different types of people, as addiction and substance abuse disorders do not discriminate.

All kinds of people from all walks of life are affected by addiction. Some of these people include the housing insecure, the uneducated, the wealthy, as well as teenage parents, and even the elderly.

Prior Experience Unnecessary

You do not have to be in recovery to be a good drug and alcohol counselor, nor do you have to know someone who has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse in the past. But more than one-third of alcohol and drug counselors have a history of addiction, and there’s a certain draw to lived experience.

You can still work well in this field if you or a loved one hasn’t struggled with substance use disorder. You need to understand the need for empathy and compassion for the people you will work with.

Seeking help for addiction has the power to change lives, but can also be stressful and fraught with strife for patients. Clinical counseling experiences will help you hone your approach to clients.

You don’t need prior experience if you have what it takes. InterCoast’s certificate program can help you learn the rest and be prepared for entry-level positions in the field.

Steps to Becoming an Addictions Counselor

It takes more than a positive attitude and commitment to helping to make a good substance abuse counselor. Our Alcohol and Drug Counseling Studies Certificate Program is a non-degree program that will give you adequate preparation for entry-level jobs in the helping professions.

1. Get Your High School Diploma

You will need a high school diploma or GED to enroll in the Alcohol and Drug Counseling Studies certificate program.

Many people entering the field have a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s. But our certificate program is a perfect way to get your foot in the door. With this education, you will qualify for entry-level positions.

People with lived experience are also at an advantage. But this doesn’t mean you have to be in recovery or have a family member in recovery to be great at your job!

2. Get Your Counseling Certificate

Take our 50-week, 41 academic credit program, and earn your certificate. You will learn about relapse prevention, recovery plans, dual diagnosis, personal and group counseling, case management, as well as how to navigate working with private medical records in adherence to regulations and laws.

You will also learn how to facilitate group counseling sessions, which will prepare you for both inpatient and outpatient treatment.

You will also learn strategies to communicate with patients and families that require substance abuse education and treatment interventions.

Pharmacology and the brain, as well as ethics and substance abuse counseling laws and regulations, are also part of your education. Cultural competency is another strategy you will learn so you can provide appropriate care to differing populations.

3. Find an Alcohol and Drug Counseling Job

You will be fully qualified for some positions in the field, and many of our graduates have gone on to jobs such as Alcohol and Drug Counselor Technician, Case Manager, Substance Use Disorder Counselors, Outreach Specialist, Prevention Specialist, Residential Treatment Advisor, Residential Assistant, and Addictions Counselor Assistant.

The job can be stressful but very rewarding when you are part of a team that saves lives.

4. Continue Your Education

Many people who complete their certificate will later go on to obtain a degree in substance use disorders or other types of counseling. At InterCoast, we offer a Substance Use Disorder associate’s degree, and many other colleges nationwide offer bachelor’s degree programs and beyond.

People with graduate or terminal degrees are mostly tapped to work in executive or manager positions at treatment facilities.

5. Stay Up to Date

The treatment field is rapidly changing, as drug policy becomes more focused on harm reduction than drug prohibition. To be effective, it’s necessary to stay engaged in the field and be flexible with your treatment approaches.

Medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone and Suboxone for opioid addiction, is becoming normalized. And with recreationally available and medically available cannabis throughout much of the U.S., you will need to be mindful of these issues as you follow treatment plans.

Stay client-focused, obtain guidance from your supervisor, and seek continuing education to stay relevant in the field.

Why InterCoast Colleges?

At InterCoast, the certificate program takes approximately one year of rigorous study. It can be completed in as little as 50 weeks!

There are 905 hours of instruction you must complete to earn your certificate.

According to, as of April 2019, more than 20 million people suffer from addiction disorders every day. Millions more are in recovery. There will be plenty of jobs you can apply for after finishing your certificate.

Accredited, Affordable, Online

Financial aid is available, if qualified, to students who attend InterCoast Colleges. InterCoast Colleges welcomes Veterans and there are benefit programs available to them, if eligible.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us today to start working on a financial plan for your education. Affordability is crucial to success.

Our certificate program is available both on-campus and is also available 100 percent online! We have designed it to work with your schedule and location. We also have five college branch locations throughout California, and invite you to come over and get information on this career.

Our instructors all have valuable on-the-job experience and provide real-world context to the written curriculum. Our students love this method and feel it helps them prepare for the workforce.

InterCoast Colleges have institutional approval to operate granted by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. We are nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, or ACCET — which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Mostly, the InterCoast Alcohol & Drug Counseling Studies Program is a CCAPP-approved certificate program. This certificate program is also approved by CAADE.

A Successful Career for You

A successful career in substance abuse counseling is made up of many components. If you want to enjoy your job, make sure that you work to cultivate counseling skills. It helps if your personality and interests suit the profession.

You will also need certification to work in the field. Start by attending a CCAPP and CAADE-approved institution.

You Could Save Lives

People struggling with alcohol and drug abuse often want to change their lives, but don’t have access to passionate counselors that are also formally qualified. If you think you have what it takes, InterCoast College would love to talk with you. Call 1-877-227-3377 with any questions and to ask about the entrance requirements for this program.

You should be commended for taking on this challenge! If you’re ready to get started, apply online today!

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2 years ago

I was wanting to look into more information about how the schooling and things work to become a councilor. My passion in life is to help others see their potential and help them grow. I have always wanted to be that friend that people can count on no matter what. I love helping people succeed and love seeing them branch into new horizons. I myself had had family members whom were active addiction and blessed to say sober today. If I can prevent it I will always make sure that people know their worth and drugs and alcohol aren’t the… Read more »

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