How Do I Become a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors aren’t technically doctors or therapists, but they do bear some of the most important responsibilities in the general healthcare system. As the United States grapples with widespread addiction to prescription medications, dependency on alcohol and other recreational drugs still poses a pervasive threat in communities across the country. Counselors play a prominent role in connecting with victims of substance abuse, directing them towards the appropriate support services and guiding them through the recovery process.

Define Personal Career Objectives

Substance abuse counseling is not subject to the same stringent requirements of medical professionals or practicing psychologists. People interested in working in this field should take the time to define their long-term objectives to determine the best way to launch and develop their career. Most addiction counselors spend the bulk of their time at work directly addressing the needs of patients. Students and professionals who are interested in research, policy development or strategic roles can benefit from experience as a counselor, but will likely need more advanced education and broader experience in the field.

Seek Education or Training

Since many local governments in the US don’t have common standards for substance abuse counseling, there are no specific obligatory educational requirements. Some positions are available to people who have a high school diploma, but a bachelor’s degree is typically expected and required by employers, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A relevant degree can fast-track new hires towards career positions, while other entry-level employees usually need to complete lengthy coursework and training before working independently.

Find a Job

Counselors specializing in addiction are often employed by government-sponsored agencies or organizations that serve public needs. Many communities have support and treatment centers that focus on serving people who are suffering from severe addiction and related disorders. These professionals are also needed in general medical facilities, including hospitals, detention facilities and educational institutions. Some colleges and universities employ addiction counselors to help address and manage the use of dangerous substances among the student body.

Develop a Career Path

Regardless of the education and practical skills a person gathers before launching their career, change and growth is an inevitable consequence of experience. Addiction counseling may seem like a simple and straightforward occupation from an external perspective, but any seasoned practitioner knows that it’s actually a complex, dynamic and potentially life-saving process. Counselors may decide to focus all of their career on working directly with individuals and groups, while others leverage their experience to take on supervisory roles, conduct research or participate in policy development.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

Substance abuse can have life-changing consequences on every aspect of a victim’s life, including profound implications on friends and family members. Patients also face the risk of life-threatening consequences related to chronic use, overdose and extreme drug-seeking behaviors. Addiction has the potential to destroy relationships and ruin lives, which only emphasizes the significance of substance abuse counselors and their struggle to address the damage caused by dependency on drugs or alcohol.