Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling jobs are growing at a faster than average pace, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you want to help children, teens and adults who have addiction issues, getting your certification in substance abuse is one way to work in this counseling profession. Getting your certification in this specialty typically entails completing a bachelor's degree or higher from a state-approved school.
The State Level
Your specific route to certification depends on the state that you want to practice in professionally. Individual states certify drug and alcohol counselors, meaning that one state may have different course requirements than another. Additionally, different state agencies or organizations certify substance abuse counselors, making it essential that you consult your state's licensure rules prior to starting school. For example, in Hawaii, the Department of Health, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division certifies substance abuse counselors. Students must attend state approved schools and fulfill state training requirements -- in the form of specific classes -- prior to certification.
Assessing the Situation
Drug and alcohol counselors must, before providing therapy or guidance, assess the client's needs and issues. The Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification notes that counselors should have the knowledge and skills to identify and evaluate issues that relate to substance abuse and addiction. Most state certifications for substance abuse counselors require prospective professionals to take post-secondary coursework in assessment. For example, Wisconsin requires their certified substance abuse counselors to take 15 hours of assessment techniques.
As a certified counselor, you'll need to interact with individuals and families in one-on-one and group settings. Classes that prepare you to work as a certified substance abuse counselor must focus on the counseling aspect of the job. For example, Hawaii requires certified counselors to take 45 clock hours of counseling theories and techniques along with 45 hours of group counseling and another 45 hours of family counseling. Other states may only require general substance abuse counseling courses. Wisconsin certifies substance abuse counselors who have a minimum of 15 hours of specialized training in this area.
Some state certification boards and agencies require soon-to-be substance abuse counselors to complete practical or field internship classes prior to working with clients. Practical classes allow the student to get on-the-job training while under the supervision of a certified, professional counselor. For example, Hawaii requires substance abuse counselors to participate in at least 400 clock hours of supervised training prior certification. This provides counselors in training with the opportunity to practice screening, assessment, planning, counseling, intervention, education, consultation and referral planning while receiving direction from a seasoned pro.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
- Hawaii.gov: Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
- Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification: Basic Framework
- Wisconsin.gov: Substance Abuse Counselor in Training- Certification Information
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.