If you are considering a career in addiction treatment, we can help you get started. There are many different certifications and licensures available in the addictions profession, not to mention all of the add-on credentials that are available. There are even some credentials that don’t require a lot of formal education. The credentials and the requirements may vary significantly from state to state. Go to State Boards to find out more about your particular state. This is an evolving site, so we welcome any information or input you may have.
How to Become an Addictions Counselor
Every state has different credentials and different requirements to acquire these credentials. Most states however use one of two organizations and some use both. These two organizations are International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium(IC&RC) and NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. My recommendation is to first check out the board(s) for your state. If your state has more than one board, you may want to explore the job market and see what certifications are specified in job listings, or contact local agencies to see who they hire. Often the state itself is the largest employer of addiction professionals, so it would be a good idea to see who they employ. From my experience, I would likely start with an organization associated with IC&RC. They are located in just about every state and when I moved to a different state the reciprocity process was relatively simple and painless. Both IC&RC and NAADAC list their minimum standards for certification, but both require you to go through your state agency.
Reasons You Should Become a Substance Abuse Counselor
- It’s Tough. Wait, I thought this was reasons that I should become a substance abuse counselor. We spend so much of our time seeking out the path of least resistance and forget the satisfaction that we get from taking on the tough challenges. Being an addictions counselor isn’t the easiest job in the world, but it can certainly be rewarding when you see someone who felt helpless and hopeless make some significant progress and really be excited about life.
- Job Security. This is one job where your goal is to work yourself out of a job, but that isn’t likely to happen. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor the number of substance abuse and behavioral counselor jobs will grow by 27% between 2010 and 2020. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that we have a pretty significant drug problem in the United States. Just watch the news tonight. Besides even if we were to get rid of all the drugs in our country, there are still plenty of other addictions out there.
- It’s not really about the drugs. Sure, drugs are the love of their life and it takes their money, family, health, freedom etc., but people use drugs for a reason. These reasons are often related to mental health issues and an inability to cope with the stresses of life. This is where the counseling comes in. I have often heard Licensed Professional Counselors and social workers say that they don’t want to work with drug addicts, but I guarantee that whether you work in mental health counseling, marriage and family counseling, school counseling or any other counseling, that you will have clients with substance abuse issues.
- Your own personal growth. I have found that when I am working with clients and helping them make some positive changes in their life, that it causes me to examine some of those areas of my life. You feel like a hypocrite when you are stressing the importance of exercise and diet when you are having a donut and a soft drink for breakfast every morning. In group settings in particular, when you are addressing specific topics, you can find yourself growing along with your group members.
- Career growth opportunities. Compared to many other professions, addictions counseling is relatively new. States having a specific substance abuse counselor board and addiction credentials is still new and evolving. These boards are becoming more organized, more involved with legislation and more respected. In the past 15 years, I have seen them add many new credentials as well as many add on credentials. There are credentials for different levels of addiction counselors, counselor supervisors, counselors specializing in gambling, co-occurring disorders and peer counselors. These are just the ones that I can think of off the top of my head. Check your state board to see what credentials are available in your state.