Addictions counselors work with people going through bad times in their lives. They are the ones who help addicts get clean and sober through the use of inpatient or outpatient treatments. Counselors can work in rehab centers, community health clinics and even in hospitals, and some go into private practice too. You absolutely need a college degree before working in the counseling field because degree programs help you gain practical experience before you start working. Whether you need a license depends on where you live as well as where you work.
Becoming a Counselor
The first step in becoming an addictions specialist is a college degree. As an undergrad, you can enroll in a social work or psychology program. You might do an internship that lets you work in an addiction center for course credit too. Once you have a bachelor's degree, you can enroll in an addictions counseling graduate program. These programs go into greater detail about the connection between mental health disorders and addictions as well as different treatment plans. Most programs will require that you do clinical fieldwork and actually work with addicted patients before you can graduate too.
Depending on where you want to work, you may find that you need certification. The Academy for Addiction Professionals is the main organization responsible for granting certification to these professionals. It requires that you have a master's degree and at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience. If you have a bachelor's degree, you need 4,000 hours of clinical experience. Though the Academy for Addiction Professionals offers certification for those with a lower degree or just a high school diploma, those students will need even more experience. You must complete 270 hours of training and take a written test to earn your certification.
Obtaining a License
In addition to your certification, you may decide to obtain your license too. The requirements for getting a counseling license vary from state to state, but must states ask that you have a master's degree. It you only have a bachelor's degree, you usually need to agree to continue your education and finish a graduate degree within the next five to 10 years. You must also pass a criminal background check too, which will require that you visit the local police station, submit your fingerprints and sign a document to authorize that check.
Do You Really Need a License?
Getting a license can take a lot of time. Many states will require that you pass a criminal background check and have a certain amount of education. Some states will also ask that you have your certification or pass a national exam designed specifically for addictions counselors. Having a license is mandatory for working in some types of facilities though because these centers want to know that their counselors can handle the unique needs of their patients. Taking the time to earn your license may also help you make more money when you start your career and later on too.
Counselors work in treatment centers and other facilities to help addicts learn healthy ways of managing their addictions and to help them succeed at home. They work with those battling addictions to legal and illegal drugs as well as alcohol. Though addictions counselors usually need some type of degree, where you work will determine whether you need a license too.
Related Resource: The Top 10 Low-Cost Online Master's Degrees in Addiction Counseling 2017