Drug counseling, also known as alcohol, substance abuse or addiction counseling, has greater training requirements than other kinds of counseling. The most common requirement is a certificate, but associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees are also widely available, as well as graduate certificates. Students of these programs will learn behavior modification techniques, evaluation methods, treatment options and prevention strategies. Higher levels of study provide courses in counseling theories, case management, and clinical supervisory practices.
Aspiring counselors should learn their state's requirements for the job. Some private sector employers also have their own requirements. All education levels require completion of a supervised professional experience. Requirements vary depending on which certificate or degree program a student is applying to. In general, a high school diploma or equivalent and satisfactory ACT/SAT scores are required for the certificate program and an associate's degree program, with the associate's degree applicants also required to take part in a drug and alcohol counselling orientation program. Graduate certificates and master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree in order to apply, while bachelor's degree programs in drug counselling will ask for a high school diploma or equivalent and possibly relevant test scores. To graduate from these programs, students may need to attain a certain amount of supervised professional experience.
Certificate in Drug Counseling
Students interested in drug counseling certificates, which generally last one year, should know that the terms certificate and certification are often used interchangeably. However, a certificate is an award for completing an academic program, while a certification is a label given to a professional to prove that he or she is an expert in a specific area in his or her profession and usually requires at least a bachelor's degree.There are many course requirements for the drug counseling certificates, but few stand out as being a general requirement. Some of those that do are:
- Pharmacology of alcohol and drug abuse
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Family counseling
- Substance abuse and HIV
Associate's Degrees in Drug Counseling
A 2-year associate's degree carries a little more professional weight than a certificate. Courses in the associate's degree program include:
- Substance abuse principles
- Motivational interviewing
- Lifespan psychological development
- Counseling theories
- Behavior modification
- Treatment environments evaluation
Bachelor's Degrees in Drug Counseling
A 4-year bachelor's degree in substance abuse counseling, sometimes called a bachelor's degree in addiction studies, will lead to better paying jobs than those with only a 2-year associate degree.
The curriculum expands from the associate's degree program into further methods for identifying substance abuse, as well as intervention, prevention and treatment. A bachelor's degree opens up more jobs that involve actual counseling. However, many who choose to earn a bachelor's degree route do so in order to prepare for a master's degree program and eventually become a licensed counselor.
Students in a bachelor's degree program in drug counseling can expect to study:
- Models in psychotherapy
- Prevention strategies
- Diagnostic evaluations
- Case management
- Co-occurring disorders
- Family dynamics
Graduate Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling
The focus of a one-year graduate certificate in drug counseling varies significantly from college to college. Some programs are designed for those are already working in some substance abuse setting, whether education, intervention or prevention, with a goal of preparing them for further positions in the field of addictions.
Other programs are for professionals who have a degree in a different field and who wish to become drug and alcohol abuse counselors These programs tend to be interdisciplinary, involving psychology, social work, public health and criminal justice disciplines and may take one to two years to complete.
Coursework for graduate certificates cover the same topics as undergraduate certificates, but the courses are generally more intense and go into more depth. They might include:
- Screening and assessment
- Violence prevention
- Case management
- Clinical supervision
- Counseling approaches
- Psychopharmacology of abused drugs
Master's Degrees in Addictions and Drug Counseling
Master's degrees in drug counseling last 2 years and are designed to allow graduates to become licensed substance abuse counselors. However, not all states have a license specific to addictions counseling Residents of those states would need to pursue a more general counseling program and licensure.
Many of the courses for the master's degree cover the same general topics as courses in a bachelor's program, but with more detail. Courses may include:
- Counseling ethics
- Theories of counseling
- Cultural diversity issues
- Family issues and dynamics
- Assessment measures
Popular Career Options
Entry-level jobs in substance abuse counseling, in settings such as hospitals, schools and prevention programs, include:
- Entry-level counselor
- Case manager
- Human resources personnel
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) expects that jobs for behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors will increase by 22% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than average growth in comparison to all occupations. This is partly because drug abusers are being sent to counseling rather than jail much more often than in the past. The median salary in May 2015 for these counselors was $39,980.
Continuing Education Information
For the addictions counselor who wants to climb the career ladder, the next step to work towards an associate degree. Beyond that is the bachelor's degree, possibly a graduate certificate and finally a master's degree. Anything after that would require becoming a licensed psychologist. Professional certifications include Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) and Certified Addiction Specialist (CAS). Some states have licensure for addictions counselors.
Students of drug or substance abuse counseling programs provide a valuable source of support for within communities for those with substance addiction problems. Some states have specific licensing requirements for these professionals, who can be found working in institutions such as schools and hospitals.