Bachelor's and master's degree programs in counseling prepare students to work with individuals in Alcoholics Anonymous. At both levels, students participate in supervised practice sessions and often go on to work a semester as a counseling intern. Depending on the degree level, programs last 2-4 years and require fieldwork. Graduate programs may be available online.
Bachelor's Degree in Counseling
At the 4-year degree level, students will be able to learn how to demonstrate empathy and assist those in need. Programs often include fieldwork and up to 400 hours may be needed to graduate. Counseling students take classes in:
- Group and individual therapy
- Professional counseling ethics
- Mental health drug treatments
- Self-help promotion and spirituality as they relate to addiction
Master's Degree in Counseling
At the graduate level, students are heavily involved in addiction research. Internships or mentorships are offered to provide hands-on practice in the field. Some programs are even available online for distance learners. In this program, students often study courses with topics such as:
- Common issues affecting alcohol and drug counseling
- Prevention and treatment methods
- Medical issues that arise from substance abuse
A.A. does not endorse professional counselors. However, substance abuse and addiction counselors can volunteer their services to A.A. groups and provide addiction counseling to A.A. members trying to remain sober. Depending on the state, training requirements for becoming an addiction counselor vary. Some states may require as little as a high school diploma and counseling certification, while others may require as much as a graduate degree. Licensure or certification is required in most states in order to provide formal counseling services.
Alcohol and drug abuse counselors desiring to offer their services to A.A. groups generally have 2-3 years of experience in substance abuse counseling. They are also familiar with A.A.'s 12-Step Program. Additionally, having working knowledge of English and Spanish is often helpful.
In most states, individuals interested in becoming addiction counselors must obtain licensure or certification, which generally includes passing an examination. Some states have different levels of mandatory certification. In certain areas of the country, individuals with volunteer training, minimal counseling education and no more than a high school diploma can apply for certification. Other states require at least a master's degree and completion of at least two years of demonstrated counseling experience.
Voluntary certification is also available through the National Board for Certified Counselors (www.nbcc.org). Individuals with at least a master's degree in counseling and two years of clinical experience can apply to take this certifying exam. Some states allow individuals who pass this exam exemption from taking an additional state licensing exam. Continuing education is required to maintain certification.
NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals (www.naadac.org), offers conferences and seminars, which provide continuing education for professionals in the field. Workshops, such as the National Conference on Addiction Disorders, typically last four days. Attendees listen to guest speakers and learn about trends in treatment methods.
Addictions counselors seeking additional knowledge of A.A. can look to the organization's website, (www.aa.org). Counselors can learn the history of A.A. and search archived documents. The site also offers relevant videos, newsletters and informational pages for counseling professionals.
Students who pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in counseling will take courses in group and individual therapy and prevention and treatment methods. Students can enhance their learning experience further by pursuing continuing education opportunities, such as voluntary certification from the NBCC.