Your guide to getting certified as an Addictions Professional
Your guide to getting certified as an Addictions Professional

Substance Abuse Counselor Overview

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A substance abuse counselor provides treatment to those in need of treatment whom are suffering from an addiction or are in recovery and trying to stay sober. They are an essential part of society as they provide the necessary needs for addicts. The process of becoming certified according to the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS) 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. Workers with a high school diploma typically go through a period of on-the-job training.

If you own your own private practice many states require a Master’s degree and between 2000-4000 hours of supervised experience. However, with each state having its own requirements and it would be best to check your states requirements. This information can be found on the National Board of Certified Counselors.

What to Expect

  • Depending on what type of counselor you want to become it’s important to note that you must be a good listener, have compassion and are willing to put in the long hours it requires. Remember you will be helping people heal from their addiction and must remember that these addicts are often in a fragile state in the beginning of treatment.
  • You will also be working with all types of personalities so you must be able to connect with all types of people.
  • Most importantly you must have patience, as recovering from an addiction can be an extremely long process. Even if you work in a treatment facility and are only with the patients for a short period of time they are coming to you for help.

Addiction is growing problem across the world and if a substance abuse counselor is willing to do the hard work to becoming certified then the career can be fulfilling and rewarding.

Addictions Counselor Certification

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How to get Experience and find a Job

The best places to look for work as a certified substance abuse counselor are hospitals, inpatient or outpatient detox facilities, treatment facilities, halfway houses, prisons and nursing homes. With the growth rate so high (31% by 2022) these places with be in definite need of addiction counselors.
There are several resources to help find employment as a counselor. You can take internships available as well as full time positions. For example: has numerous internships and positions available. is another good site that lists several open positions.

Like with any job it requires hard work to find a job or internship as a substance abuse counselor, but do not be discouraged because there are plenty of opportunities. The Bureau Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that this is one the fastest growing positions in the US.

There are also several resources to help in preparation for the exam, depending in which state you live in there are practice tests available online and provide susbtabce abuse counseling test sample questions, like these for example:

1. Your patient does not seem to be meeting treatment goals after a substantial period of time in therapy. What should you do?
2. Your patient is of a spiritual faith that is counter to your own. You should…
3.  While your patient is seeing you for a substance abuse problem, you begin to see indications of bipolar disorder. What should you do?

Overall, the resources are out there to help you become a certified substance abuse counselor. There are also books available to help prepare for the exam. has numerous books to help you prepare as well.


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wendy christensen

I have BSW. and two years of drug and alcohol classes. I was doing my hours back in 2008-2009. I allowed my student ISAS to lapse and discontinued my pursuit. Now I would like to continue this avenue but do not know how to go about this and could really use information on how to go about this. Please, any help would be appreciated. My number is 423-463-6862. Thank you.

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