What is a Certified Addiction Counselor?
Well, generally-speaking, a certified addiction counselor is a mental health professional that provides counseling services, and support to recovering alcoholics and addicts (i.e. eating, gambling, substance abuse, lying, relationship, etc.). The primary goals of a certified addiction counselor is to help addicts work through their issues so they can attain and maintain a drug-free existence.
Certified addiction counselors work in a: group home, hospital, treatment facility, clinic, private doctor’s office, prison, and half-way house. They may work with clients individually, and in group settings. It is important to note that some substance abuse and addiction treatment facilities hire former addicts, who have maintained sobriety for a certain amount of time, to counsel active addicts through the withdrawal and treatment process.
These addiction counselors are not really “counselors” because they have not received formal training or experience in the counseling field, however, they are considered “addiction coaches” and “addiction mentors,” that provide a safe, place for addicts to work out their problems, and talk with someone, who has experienced the “throes of addiction.”
Both certified addiction counselors and “addiction coaches/mentors” can make a tremendous difference in the life of someone, who is suffering from an addiction. To become a certified addiction counselor, you will need to earn a bachelor’ degree and a master’s degree in addiction counseling or a related field, and obtain a license and/or certified in the field.
What are the Requirements for Addiction Counselor Certification?
To become a certified addiction counselor, you will first need to earn a high school diploma/GED. Once you have graduated from high school, you will be able to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, in a field of your choice. In other words, you do not have to earn a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling, counseling or a related field, in order to enroll in a master’s degree program. You will, however, be required to earn a master’s degree in addiction counseling, counseling or a related field, if you want to seek licensure in the field.
Most states require a master’s degree, supervised clinical experience and successfully passing of the licensure exams (i.e. state and national) to practice as an addiction counselor, however, in some circumstances you can become certified with a high school diploma/associate’s/bachelor’s degree, and extensive experience in addiction counseling.
Once you graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and enter a graduate program, you will complete a combination of coursework and clinical rotations (supervised internship).
Typical Master-Level Courses
- Survey of Research in Human Development for Professional Counselors
- Survey of Research Methodology
- Assessment, Tests, and Measures
- Principles of Psychopathology: Diagnosis and Treatment
- Theories of Personality
- Ethical and Legal Issues in Professional Counseling
- Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Theories of Psychotherapy
- Group Counseling and Psychotherapy
- Life Planning and Career Development
- Counseling and Advocacy with Diverse Populations
Depending on your state and the type/level of certification, you will not be eligible for addiction counselor certification until you have completed between 4,000 and 6,000 hours of addiction counseling services at an approved facility. It is important to note that it will probably take 2 to 3 years of full-time addiction counseling experience to become eligible for certification. Apart from general education and experience requirements, most states also candidates to meet additional requirements.
The National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC)
NAADAC offers three credentials for addiction counselors:
- National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I)
- National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level II (NCAC II)
- Master Addiction Counselor (MAC)
What are the Responsibilities of a Certified Addiction Counselor?
- Identifying clients’ addictive behaviors
- Developing strategies that overcome destructive, maladaptive, negative, and unhealthy behaviors
- Working with and providing support to family members and loved ones, who are affected by the client’s addiction
- Educating the public on the dangers of substance abuse and addictions
- Helping clients maintain their sobriety
- Providing counseling services and support to addicts
- Develop treatment plans/recovery programs for addicts
How Much Does a Certified Addiction Counselor Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, addiction counselors can expect to earn approximately $44,160, per year, as of May 2016. Certified addiction counselor may earn more than addiction counselors without this credential. Addiction counselors in the lower 10% and the upper 10% on average earn $26,210 and $65,080 respectively.
The Bureau reports that certified addiction/drug and alcohol counselors, working in junior colleges earn the highest mean wages (approximately $73,050, per year).
What are the Opportunities for Advancement for an Addiction Counselor?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for certified addiction counselors is favorable. In fact, the Bureau reports that there should be 31% growth in job opportunities in this field by the year 2022. This growth may stem from an increased need for addiction/substance abuse/alcoholism treatment programs.
In addition, more and more people are seeking treatment for their addiction problems because they are tired of living an “unclean life,” and they are “sick” of torturing their friends and loved ones with the addiction. Moreover, more and more drug offenders are being sent to addiction treatment centers instead of jail or prison (bls.gov).
- Substance Abuse Counselor Career Information
- How to Become an Addiction Therapist
- Addiction Social Worker Careers
- What Can You Do With a Counseling Psychology Degree?
- How to Become a Substance Abuse Social Worker
Useful Resources and References
- American Counseling Association
- National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors
- International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014). Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm
- The Academy for Addiction Professionals. (2014). Certified addiction counselor course information. Retrieved from http://www.addictionacademy.com/certified-addiction-counselor.php