5 Steps to Becoming a Certified Addictions Counselor

As an addictions counselor, you'll work with both patients and family members to help prevent and treat addictions. This career typically requires a graduate degree and licensure, and certification options are also available. Read more about how to get started toward becoming a certified addictions counselor. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Addictions Counselor?

Certified addictions counselors help people who have addictions to alcohol, gambling, drugs or who have eating disorders. As a counselor, you will identify addictive behaviors and develop strategies to overcome that behavior. You may work with patients individually or in group settings. You'll sometimes work with the family members who are affected. It may also be your job to help with prevention and awareness of the danger of substance abuse and addiction in communities.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

A master's degree is usually required to become licensed or certified addictions counselor. Master's degree programs in addictions counseling or substance abuse counseling focus on mental health counseling strategies, chemical dependency, family structures of addicts, ethics in addictions counseling, drug use in the workplace, pharmacology, counseling ethics, blood diseases and ethnicity in drug use. As part of a master's program, you'll likely complete a clinical where you'll spend time with real patients.

Step 2: Obtain a License

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 49 states require counselors to hold a state license (www.bls.gov). Requirements for licensing may include holding a degree in behavioral sciences, addictions counseling or related field, having work experience in the field and passing an exam. The National Board of Certified Counselors offers the National Counselor Examination (NCE) that some states accept in place of licensure (www.nbcc.org).

Step 3: Find Employment

According to the BLS, employment for addictions counselors is supposed to increase by 21% from 2008-2018. This should add an additional 18,100 positions to the 86,100 reported by the BLS in 2008. You may find employment with community health organizations, hospitals, outpatient facilities, treatment centers and government agencies. You may also open your own private practice.

Step 4: Get Certified

The Association for Addictions Professionals (NAADAC) offers a number of certifications and credentials for addictions counselors (www.naadac.org). You may obtain Level I or Level II National Certified Addiction Counselor, Master Addiction Counselor or Tobacco Addiction Specialist certifications. You may also consider earning certification in conflict resolution, adolescent specialization or spiritual guidance, which are also offered by the NAADAC.

The NBCC also offers the Examination for Master Addictions Counselors (EMAC). This exam tests your knowledge of assessment, counseling and treatment methods. You'll also be tested on drug use prevention techniques.

Step 5: Participate in Continuing Education

To renew your license or certification, you may be required to participate in continuing education. Continuing education may include attend lectures, completing courses or doing research within the field. The NAADAC requires 40 hours of continuing education upon renewal of certifications held through the organization. The NBCC requires renewal every five years and within those five years, you must complete 100 hours of continuing education.

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