While many interested in a career as a relapse counselor pursue a relevant master's degree, there are also doctoral and certificate options available. These programs often consist of lecture-based coursework and clinical components, and may require research or a dissertation. Certificate programs are only accessible to those who already have a formal degree and experience in other health-related areas. Doctoral tracks emphasize either clinical training or research as part of the curriculum, and are tailored based upon a student's interest within substance abuse counseling.
Enrollment in these graduate programs requires students to have a bachelor's degree. Master's and doctoral programs also require a satisfactory score on the Miller Analogies Test or the Graduate Records Examination (GRE).
Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling
Certificate programs in alcohol and drug counseling are available to those currently working in the healthcare field. The program prepares healthcare professionals to provide better care to addicts and assist in their life management skills. Students in the program develop techniques to work with individuals and groups in rehabilitation settings. The curriculum of a certificate program in addiction counseling provides an introduction to counseling techniques and incorporates practical training. Class topics include:
- Introduction to addiction counseling
- Ethical and legal issues in addiction counseling
- Physiology of alcohol and drugs
- Group counseling
- Family counseling
Master of Arts in Substance Abuse Counseling
Master's degree students in clinical counseling may choose to concentrate in an area of substance abuse and addiction counseling. Graduates are prepared to provide rehabilitation services, such as assessment and diagnosis, drug detoxification and treatment plan development. Most accredited programs meet the requirements necessary to obtain state licensure. Clinical counseling programs are made up of didactic coursework, clinical experiences and personal counseling. Specific classes include:
- Theories of counseling
- Individual counseling techniques
- Group dynamics
- Addictions and related disorders
- Addiction prevention techniques
- Psychophysiology of addiction
Doctor of Psychology in Counseling
Doctoral-level study prepares pupils for careers as administrators, clinicians and researchers. Counseling students complete a rotation of courses and a dissertation, in addition to participating in hands-on training through internships. A sample of course topics include psychopathology, ethics and:
- Program development
- Program management
- Practices of rehabilitation
- Cognitive disabilities
- Advanced counseling theory
- Research methodology
Popular Career Options
Graduates of certificate programs in addiction counseling may use the skills learned to further develop their career or pursue additional education. Specific jobs may include:
- Social service worker
- Case manager
- Relapse counselor
- Substance abuse counselor
Additional job options include case managers, social service specialists, clinicians and administrators. Some jobs may require certification or licensure.
Graduates of doctoral programs in counseling may choose a clinical or academic path. Specific roles may include:
- Rehabilitation program administrator
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Due to increased insight into addiction disorders, more people are obtaining treatment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors were expected to increase by about 25% during the 2019-2029 decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also estimated a median annual salary of $47,660 for such counselors in 2020. Outpatient care centers were the top employers for these professionals; business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations, while employing far fewer counselors, were among the highest-paying employers.
States require counselors to meet educational requirements and complete an examination in order to practice professionally. Specific requirements vary by state. In order to maintain licensing credentials, professional counselors must also complete continuing education hours each year.
Individuals with an interest in working with people struggling with substance abuse and addiction may seek a certificate in alcohol and drug counseling, a Master of Arts in Substance Abuse Counseling or a Doctor of Psychology in Counseling, depending on the desired career and past professional experience.