Obtaining a master's degree in addiction counseling can provide you with the skills and education needed to help people on the path to recovery from a variety of addiction disorders. Addiction counselors don't just help people with drug and alcohol problems, they also help people recover from gambling, overeating, smoking and other behavioral disorders. Addiction counselors need to meet certain educational requirements and have the right skill set for the job.
Deciding to Earn a Master's Degree
A master's degree isn't always required to become an addiction counselor, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Depending on their personal experience with addiction issues or the level of supervision provided by the employment setting, some addictions counselors may enter the field with a high school diploma. However, most have at least a bachelor's degree in addiction counseling or a related field. A master's degree allows you to provide more services with less supervision, such as independent individual counseling in a private practice. If you work in private practice, you also must hold a state counseling license.
Before you can apply to master's degree programs in addiction counseling, you need to have a bachelor's degree. Your bachelor's degree does not have to be in a counseling-related field, but it can help give you a foot in the door and provide you with an education in the foundations of counseling and addiction treatment. In addition, since many students decide to become addiction counselors due to their own personal history with addictions or behavioral disorders, some schools require that you provide certification that you've had no chemical abuse problems in the past two years.
Completing Your Curriculum
Most master's degree programs in addiction counseling follow a similar curriculum. You must usually complete around 44 credits of coursework, divided between core courses, clinical experience courses and specialization courses. Some of the core courses you might take include human development for professional counselors, group counseling, theories of psychotherapy and counseling with diverse populations. Clinical experience courses focus on specific addiction counseling techniques. Specialization courses involve learning about interventions and treatments for different addiction issues, such as treatment of eating disorders or issues in compulsive or addictive behavior.
Gaining Real Life Experience
Completing coursework and learning about addiction counseling techniques from books alone doesn't entirely prepare you for the real world of addiction counseling. Most master's degree programs in addiction counseling require you to complete a supervised, clinical internship, in which you'll provide direct treatment to clients. You might work in a substance abuse treatment facility, hospital or mental health clinic. You'll perform the same duties of an addiction counselor, but you'll work directly under the supervision of a qualified addiction counseling supervisor.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.