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How To Become An Addiction Counselor

How Much Does An Addiction Counselor Make

What is Addiction Counseling? How to Become an Addiction Counselor.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for substance abuse counselors is $47,660. The highest earners have annual salaries of about $78,700.

Youre likely to earn more if you work for a government agency or a healthcare facility.

Those mental health professionals who work in private practices and outpatient centers typically have salaries that fall toward the middle of the scale, and employees at inpatient facilities and substance abuse centers may earn the least amount of money.

Pay can vary significantly throughout the country. Experience and education can help you move up the substance abuse counselor salary scale.

Addiction Specialist Certifications & Licensure

Currently,addiction specialists only need to be licensed in 27 states and theDistrict of Columbia. Licensing requirements vary by state andaspiring professionals should check with their local board to learnthe steps they need to take.

Addictionspecialists may pursue certification as a national certifiedaddiction counselor through TheAssociation for Addiction Professionals. While not required, it can help with employability.

Thosepursuing this career as a certified counselor, however, are requiredto be licensed in all 50 states. Licensing is also done on a state bystate basis and requirements vary. Certification can be obtained as anational certified counselor , and subsequently as a masteraddiction counselor , through the NationalBoard for Certified Counselors.

To qualifyfor the National Counselor Examination , applicants must have anaccredited masters degree in counseling ,official transcripts, a specific number of supervised work hours, a processing fee, and other requirements.

The NCEexam itself consists of 200 multiple-choice questions across eightcore areas. Candidates have three hours and 45 minutes to completeit.

Salary And Career Outlook

How much does a substance abuse counselor make? According to the BLS, these professionals earn a median annual salary of $44,630. Substance abuse counselors working in hospitals or for the government can earn more than those working in outpatient or residential settings. Moreover, counselors who lead teams or qualify to make clinical assessments may earn more than their colleagues who primarily provide diagnoses or create treatment plans.


The BLS projects that jobs in this field will grow by 22% from 2018-2028, much faster than the national average. Criminal justice reform provides a major reason for this growth. As drug-related offenders threaten to overwhelm the penal system, more judges and magistrates are handing down community-based sentences as an alternative to incarceration. These sentences often include required counseling.

Another reason for this fields growth comes from the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, which mandates that participating insurers cover both mental and physical health issues.

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Can A Phd In Addiction Counseling Be Completed Online

Yes! There are select online addiction counseling degree programs at the doctoral level. If your goal is to become licensed, however, you should be sure to check with your state licensing board to determine whether such a program will meet credentialing requirements.

References: 1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator:

Masters Degree In Addiction Counseling

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Earning a MS degree is an important step for many mental health counseling professionals in this field. In some states, you must achieve this level of education before youre allowed to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

All states require you to get a masters if you want to become clinically licensed.

In states other than Kansas, a masters degree can be a good way to break into this field for the first time. A number of masters programs dont require you to hold a particular bachelors degree.

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On the other hand, certain undergraduate prerequisites may qualify you for an advanced-standing masters program. The masters program you pursue can come in a number of fields. For example, some students earn a masters in applied behavior analysis or a masters in psychology.

Some graduate counseling programs are specifically designed to prepare you for licensure. Youll first need to earn work hours and take an exam.

Licensure can allow you to practice independently, and it can qualify you to take advanced roles with increased responsibilities or higher pay.

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Obtain An Associates Or Bachelors Degree

While a degree is not required in every state for a career as a substance abuse counselor, it can help aspiring professionals obtain more advanced certification or licensure and with job advancement. The most commonly earned degree for this field is addiction counseling, although degrees such as psychology, counseling, chemical dependency counseling, and other behavioral sciences can suffice. Some states require specific coursework so students should check with their local board to learn the requirements.

Students should ensure the program they attend is accredited, as most states wont accept degrees from unaccredited institutions. At a minimum, the program should be regionally accredited by an agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the US Department of Education . Completing a program accredited by an entity such as the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission is required in some states.

Who Do Substance Abuse Counselors Work With

Substance abuse counselors work with people of all ages and walks of life. Some specialize in adolescent addicts or specific adult populations including those from certain spiritual traditions. Others may prefer to work with a specific gender, or even transgendered people. There is also a huge demand for substance abuse counselors to work with houseless people and prisoners, including juvenile offenders.

Substance abuse counselors can thus find work in a range of different environments. They might spend their days in a corrections facility, a homeless shelter, or even in private practice. Most will find work with a rehabilitation center that may have a hospital-type setting, though some have a college campus or a spa-like environment.

Counselors can thus seek out the population and setting that suits them best. This range of choices includes treatment philosophies, religious affiliation, and more. Since there are so many valid approaches to substance abuse therapy, counselors can focus on their favorite methodology while in school and then forge a career that fosters their passion. Furthermore, since addiction therapy can take place in a wide range of settings, including outdoor activities, counselors can apply their recreation to their profession.

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Education Requirements To Join The Workforce

To become a substance abuse counselor you will usually need at least a two year training program. However, increasingly a bachelors degree in Psychology, Sociology, Social Work or a related field is required to be considered for a position. In addition, it is always wise to study a foreign language as bilingual and multilingual candidates are highly sought after.

What Addiction Counselors Do

Understanding Addiction Counselor Certification

Some drug abuse and addiction counselors work in private practice with clients one-on-one or in group settings. They help clients confront their behavior and work through underlying causes. Addiction and substance abuse often stem from traumatic situations and an inability to deal with the pressures of life or family relationships.

They also work with family members separately or as a group with the client, or conduct interventions which bring together family members and others close to the client as a means of confronting them with reality and to agree to undergo treatment. Counselors also conduct preventive drug and alcohol addiction awareness seminars.

Counselors frequently deal with crisis intervention situations. Addiction and substance abuse often lead to homelessness, mental illness, AIDS and even death. Crisis intervention requires a supportive, non-judgmental attitude and the ability to control emotions of anger and frustration when clients revert to their old behaviors. This type of counseling can be very frustrating and the burnout rate is high.

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Earn An Accredited Masters Degree In Counseling

In spite of state qualifications, a masters degree is the high-grade educational plan for those who are looking to enhance a substance abuse adviser because of increased career opportunities. These programs investigate deeper into psychoanalytical theories and the impact on alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, mental health problems, or other mental or behavioral issues has on society. You will also study pharmacology , change intervention, and the role of belief in counseling.

How To Become A Counselor

A substance abuse counselor holds a position of power and trust in their patients lives. So becoming one requires rigorous training and qualifications. This involves getting your addiction counseling certificate.

There are several different boards to get your certification from in California. These include:

  • The Addiction Counselors Certification Board of California
  • The California Association of DUI Treatment Programs
  • The California Association for Drug/Alcohol Educators

In order to start your training, you need to meet a bunch of requirements. This includes your educational background and personal background, but the requirements vary depending on which state you want to practice in.

You must have graduated from high school before enrolling in a college degree scheme. From here, you will receive the appropriate training and certification. Different certificates or colleges may also ask for specific grades or subjects.

If you already have a bachelors or masters degree, you still need certificate training to become a counselor. This involves further training in a certification arena, which will provide you with specific skills for the job.

Anyone who wants to work in private practice counseling must have a masters degree. Working in private practice means you will have less supervision over your work, so you require more education. Masters degrees in mental health or psychology can be beneficial for counselors.

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Pass Any Required Substance Counseling Exams For Licensure And Certification

Some states and/or counseling programs require the passing of a recognized examination for graduation or licensure such as the National Counselor Examination and/or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination . Some organizations require an examination to receive certification or credentialing. Check the available licenses and required examinations for counselors in your state through the National Board of Certified Counselors and apply for licensure.

Become An Addiction Counselor In Colorado

Your Recovery Requires the Best Addiction Counseling ...

Before counselors in Colorado are able to begin working, they are required to hold their licensure. This is true for any type of counseling: school counseling, rehabilitation counseling, mental health counseling, career counseling, college counseling, family therapy, clinical mental health counseling, behavioral health counseling, professional mental health counseling, alcohol and drug counseling , etc. No matter where your interests lie, a license is mandatory.

Depending on the field of counseling the professional is entering, they will be able to find the information for licensure under the appropriate state board.

Graduates of a bachelors degree in addiction counseling will want to review information from the Colorado State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners. They may be working toward their goal of becoming substance abuse counselors. Because counselors with a bachelors degree are not able to directly counsel clients with addiction disorders, they need to continue in school, earning their masters degree. In Colorado, substance abuse counselors who are offering clinical services are required to hold a behavioral health masters degree.

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Occupational Outlook For Addiction Counselors

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the demand for addiction counselors will rise by 22% by 2028, which is over four times the average job growth rate. The median pay in 2018 was around $44,630.

Demand is expected to grow for a few reasons. The criminal justice system is finding people with drug-related crimes are less likely to commit them again if they receive treatment. As a result, many are given mandatory treatment and counseling as part of their sentencing. Additionally, telehealth services are growing in popularity, which allows people in underserved or rural areas to receive much-needed recovery resources.

Academics: The First Step

Once you have decided that work as a substance abuse addictions counselor is for you, you will need to begin a course of formal study. While your state will have specific requirements, most states follow a predictable pattern in their education requirements. Please consult with your academic advisers and with your state’s professional regulatory boards to ensure that your work will help support your goals.

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Other Helpful Skills And Experience

Succeeding as a substance abuse counselor means more than meeting the basic state-established education and experience requirements. Candidates should develop the attitudes, characteristics, and skills needed to help people overcome the challenges posed by chemical addictions.

Soft skills, such as communication, organization, and memorization, can prove valuable in counseling settings. Moreover, the ability to manage stress, regulate emotions, and empathize with people in recovery also proves critical. Most importantly, substance abuse counselors must want to help people facing this particular challenge.

In addition to these soft skills, specific backgrounds and experience can lay a strong foundation for substance abuse counseling. Relevant experience for this career includes military service or prior work experience with diverse groups of people. Personal experience with recovery can also give counselors valuable insight as they help others however, maintaining boundaries also proves critical to becoming an effective counselor.

While education and certification are vital, the best degrees build on students life experiences and innate talents. People with the hearts to serve others can use their coursework and licenses to make a difference.

What Do Addiction Counselors Do

What does it take to be an addiction counselor?

Typical duties of addiction counselors include:

  • Evaluate the clients mental and physical health, addiction, and assess how ready they are for treatment.
  • Develop, recommend and review addiction treatment goals and plans with the client and his family.
  • Assess the clients ability to develop the skills and behaviors needed to recover from their addiction.
  • Work with the client to identify behaviors or situations that block their addiction recovery.
  • Teach family members about addiction problems and help them to devise strategies to cope with these problems
  • Refer addiction clients to other services and resources, such as support groups and job placement services.
  • Perform outreach programs to help people to understand the signs of addiction and other damaging behavior.

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What Does A Substance Abuse Counselor Do

The specific substance abuse counselor job description will vary, depending on the place of employment, but generally, counselors provide treatment and support to assist individuals in recovering from addiction or modifying problem behaviors such as eating disorders. Substance abuse counselors help clients identify why they have turned to alcohol, drugs, or other destructive behaviors and work with them on techniques and treatments to help turn their lives around.

Some counselors have clients who are assigned by a court to get treatment some counselors may be called on by family or friends to assist in an intervention. Some counselors specialize in a particular demographic, such as veterans, teens, or those with disabilities. Alcohol and drug abuse touch the lives of people of all ages, ethnicities, income levels, education levels, and gender abuse is indiscriminate in that way. So no matter what path you pursue in a career in drug and alcohol abuse counseling, there is a need for it.

This counseling field encompasses many job titles, including certified alcohol drug counselor , addictions counselor, case manager, chemical dependency counselor , clinical counselor, correctional substance abuse counselor, counselor, drug and alcohol program advisors , and drug and alcohol treatment specialist , among others.

How To Become An Addiction And Substance Abuse Counselor

Never has there been more of a need in the United States for well-educated substance abuse counselors than there is today. Consider as evidence the drug abuse epidemic that continues to plague the nation. Drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Opioids and other prescription drugs made up 66 percent of those deaths. The CDC also reports that alcohol is implicated in 88,000 deaths each year between 2006 and 2010. Illegal drug death rates continue to increase. The latest reports show cocaine-related deaths were up by 52.4 percent, heroin-related deaths by 19.5 percent and deaths related to psycho-stimulants were up by 33.3 percent.

Substance abuse counselors also referred to as addiction counselors, are among the professionals who are on the front lines of the nations expanding drug abuse epidemic, working diligently to help mitigate and solve the issue.

A report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a well-rounded picture of the substance abuse counseling role. It identified competencies that effective counselors must possess, described many of the day-to-day responsibilities with which they are tasked, and outlined the skills necessary to complete these tasks. The following is a non-exhaustive list, referenced from the SAMHSA, that provides a sampling of the knowledge and responsibilities that substance abuse counselors must master.

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Addiction Counseling Education In Colorado

In Colorado, addiction counselors are required to hold a masters degree or their doctorate in addiction counseling. This means they should have already earned their Certified Addiction Counselor III. Prospective students may want to check out the licensing and certification requirements as they prepare to enter school.

Before they can use the LAC title, they must take the required licensing exam and pass it. This is the Master Addiction Counselor exam. Its the last exam required for an addiction counselor to hold their LAC.

To give themselves a better chance of passing the exam, students might consider taking a practice exam online other study materials are available on the Colorado State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners website, as well.

Colorado addiction counselors are required to hold one of three certifications. Once they have earned the required masters degree and passed their licensing exam, they are called Licensed Addiction Counselor . Proof of having completed their required supervised experience is also mandatory.

As of 2018, Colorados stop industries ranged from arts, entertainment, recreation and accommodation, and food services. The top industry, by dollar amount, is the real estate, rental and leasing sector, which brought in $55.2 billion.

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