Drug and alcohol addiction is a growing problem across the world, not least in North America. An estimated one in ten people over the age of 12 are struggling with addiction in the US, but less than 12% of them receive formal treatment. Addiction counselors play a vital role in helping people to recover from addiction and to get their lives back on track. If that sounds like an appealing career to you, read on!
What Does an Addiction Counselor Do?
Addiction counseling is a varied profession, but most counselors will work directly with clients who are dealing with an addiction. Typically, they will begin by interviewing the client to get an understanding of their unique addiction profile. Using the answers the client gives, as well as an observation of the client’s physical and mental health, the addiction counselor will then be able to draw up a personalized treatment plan.
The treatment plan will involve identifying the addiction triggers and figuring out ways to help the addict avoid those triggers. The addiction counselor also plays a role in helping an addict to repair their relationships with friends and family, and to build a network of support around them.
Addiction counselors work in hospitals, rehab centers, detention centers and in private practice too.
Addiction Counseling Degrees and Certifications
You cannot get a job in the addiction counseling field without a degree or certification in this field. In fact the higher the degree the better chance for the best paying job will become more available to you.
Kaplan University offers an online graduate certificate in addiction counseling. While UMASS Online offers a ACEP Addictions Counseling Education Programs certificate online to those looking to join the field.
What Are the Job Prospects for Addiction Counselors?
In 2014, the median salary for an addiction counselor was $41,870. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects demand for this profession to grow by an enormous 31% by 2022, so the job prospects are excellent for professionals in this field. This growth is fueled in part by a change in the way addicts are dealt with by the criminal justice system, with more emphasis on treatment in the community. Growth is also partly explained by the Affordable Care Act mandating the provision of mental health insurance coverage, which will lead to more people coming forward to seek treatment for their addictions.
Training to Be an Addiction Counselor
A bachelor’s degree is usually the first step on the road towards becoming an addiction counselor. Psychology, counseling or behavioral sciences are good majors, and interested students should ensure that they take as many addiction-related options within their degree as possible.
Following completion of the degree, most addiction counselors go on to take a Masters degree in Substance Abuse Counseling or similar. This will usually involve a certain amount of supervised training in a clinical setting, and is often enough to meet certification requirements, but you should always check the exact requirements in your state.
For those already working in a psychology or mental health field, it’s possible to take short certification courses in Substance Abuse Counseling, helping to make the career switch that much easier.
Is Substance Abuse Counseling Right For You?
Clearly, this can be a very rewarding field of work, as you are helping clients to literally turn their lives around. However, substance abuse counseling is not for everyone. This is very emotionally demanding work, and you will often be working with challenging and sometimes abusive clients.
It can be a very stressful job, and frustration levels are high, especially since a high proportion of clients will relapse despite the counselor’s best efforts.
Hours can be unsociable and irregular, and case loads are typically heavy, often requiring more than 40 hours a week. It’s essential that a substance abuse counselor has their own strong, stable support network of friends and family who understand the demands of their job.
Emotional maturity and a non-judgmental nature are vital characteristics for this job, as is the ability to remain calm and professional in challenging circumstances.
If you feel that it’s right for you, then addiction counseling can be a very meaningful role in life, with many good prospects for advancement and to develop your career. Successful addiction counselors in private practice can easily earn six figures a year, but for most people, this is a vocation rather than an easy way to get rich.