Addiction Therapist: Job Description and Education Requirements

Sep 10, 2019

Addiction therapists usually hold a bachelor's or master's degree, as well as state licensure. If you are interested in becoming an addiction therapist, you should have strong listening and communication skills, and a compassion for others. Here are more details about the requirements and career information for this field.

Essential Information

Addiction therapists (also known as substance abuse counselors) have the necessary clinical skills and experience needed to help their patients overcome substance abuse issues. Typically, this career requires at least a bachelor's degree in a behavioral or social science with additional coursework and experience in addiction counseling.

Graduate degrees may increase job opportunities and usually include supervised experience, which employers often require. Licensing requirements vary by state. Various voluntary certifications are available through the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) and requirements vary for each certificate.

Required Education Varies by state from a high school diploma to a master's degree
Other Requirements On-the-job training when only a high school diploma is required
Licensure & Certification State licensure generally required;
Certification available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 22% (for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)*
Median Annual Salary (2018) $44,630 (for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Addiction therapists apply their skills to counsel those who have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorders. It is part of an addiction therapist's job to develop a treatment plan for their patients and help them find ways of coping with their destructive urges. Counselors must be knowledgeable about the different kinds of addiction, such as alcohol, drug dependency, gambling and eating disorders.

Therapy may begin with interviews and initial screenings to assess a client's condition and determine whether crisis counseling is needed. At this time, therapists learn the patient's addiction history. An assessment is also performed on the patients' family and significant others to ascertain the level of support they'll have as they work through their alcohol or drug dependency issues.

A large part of an addiction therapist's job is listening. They must be compassionate and provide their patients with non-judgmental support. Counselors conduct therapy sessions on a daily or weekly basis, as needed. Often, group therapy sessions are scheduled for patients, and sometimes their family members participate.

Counselors may make referrals for their patients if they are found to have deeper emotional problems. They can also implement treatment plans of their own, by utilizing varied mental health techniques. Addiction therapists may work in residential treatment facilities, hospitals and prisons, or they may have private practices.

Education Requirements

Those interested in becoming an addiction therapist will need to complete at least four years of study through an accredited college. Often, a master's degree is a requirement to become an addiction therapist. Those with master's degrees will have greater job opportunities. Students must major in a behavioral or social science program, and complete courses in addiction counseling or substance abuse programs. In addition, they'll need to study psychology, sociology, assessments and professional ethics.

Licensing requirements differ by state. To become certified as an addiction therapist, students need to pass an examination given by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors. In addition to formal credentials, many employers want applicants to have anywhere from one to three years of supervised, on-the-job work experience as an addiction therapist. Graduate programs often include supervised internship experiences as part of the curriculum.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors could expect 22% job growth between 2018 and 2028. These professionals earned a median yearly salary of $44,630 in May 2018, according to the BLS.

Addiction therapists help treat patients with substance abuse disorders, and can treat a variety of addictions, from alcohol or drugs, to gambling or eating disorders. Demand for addiction therapists is high, as job growth for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors is predicted to increase by 22% through the year 2028.

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