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Addiction & Substance Abuse Counseling
Addiction & Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who have alcoholism or other types of addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, also called addiction counselors, work with clients both individually and in group sessions. Many incorporate the principles of 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, to guide their practice. They teach clients how to cope with stress and life's problems in ways that help them recover. Furthermore, they help clients rebuild professional relationships and, if necessary, reestablish their career. They also help clients improve their personal relationships and find ways to discuss their addiction or other problem with family and friends.

Many addiction counselors work with other health and mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, social workers, doctors, and nurses. Some work in facilities that employ many types of healthcare and mental health professionals. In these settings, treatment professionals work in teams to develop treatment plans and coordinate care for patients.

Addiction & Substance Abuse Counselor Education

Educational requirements range from a high school diploma to a master’s degree, depending on the setting, type of work, state regulations, and level of responsibility. A graduate degree isn't required to become a substance abuse counselor. Technically, neither is a bachelor's degree. However, earning a graduate degree speeds up the process of achieving full certification in the student's state and usually allows for access to a higher pay scale and supervisory positions.

Master's degrees vary. There are Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S.) in Substance Abuse, Clinical Counseling with Substance Abuse Focus, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling. Students will most likely want a program certified by Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), though there is no national standard for what distinguishes a good substance abuse counseling master's program. Students may also want to pursue general master's degrees in Community Counseling, psychology, or social work (M.S.W.) and supplement these with a certificate program in substance abuse counseling. Master's programs are usually one and a half to two years.

Addiction & Substance Abuse Counselor Licensing

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in private practice must be licensed. Being licensed to work in this setting requires a master's degree and 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-recognized exam and complete continuing education every year. Contact information for your state's regulating board can be found through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

The licensure or certification criteria for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors outside of private practice vary from state to state. For example, not all states require a specific degree, but many require applicants to pass an exam.

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Addiction & Substance Abuse Counseling
Grand Canyon University

Counseling / Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
Bachelor of Science

The Bachelor of Science in Counseling with an Emphasis in Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse is designed to train practitioners in the field of addiction counseling, chemical dependency, and substance abuse treatment. The coursework focuses on the nature of psychopathological conditions and their impact on the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual nature of the human being. Counseling skills courses and a fieldwork/practicum course complete the focused coursework list. Completion of this program may qualify graduates to meet the standards for state, national, and international certification for professional prevention specialists and treatment counselors/providers. Participants should contact the appropriate certifying body to ensure that courses meet certification requirements.

Addiction Counseling
Master of Science

Includes Internship

The Addiction Counseling MS program prepares students to treat substance abuse and dependency disorders. Courses provide a comprehensive survey of counseling theories, group counseling, social and cultural issues, psychopharmacology, family issues, and more. In addition, a supervised internship provides 150 contact hours of opportunity for student to develop their counseling skills. In many states, a master's degree is required for the highest level of licensing or certification. Graduates of this program are prepared to meet the academic requirements for licensure in Arizona as a both a Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor (LASAC) and a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC). Additionally, program graduates from most other states will be academically prepared to begin the process of seeking certification and licensure in their home state. Licensing and certification requirements may vary from state to state. It is the student's responsibility to check the requirements in their state.

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