Addiction counselors are a guiding force for those struggling with addiction. Whether patients have substance abuse issues or gambling addictions, counselors know how to connect with them to prescribe and facilitate treatment. It’s an excellent line of work and oftentimes recovering addicts are great candidates for the job.
As rewarding as addiction counseling can be, the field of work is incredibly challenging. Learn more about what it takes to become an addiction counselor and what the job entails so you have a better idea of what to expect.
1. Education and Training Requirements Vary
Most states require addiction counselors to have an accredited degree, supervised clinical hours, and a license or certification. However, you may need different levels of training and education depending on your specialty and where you practice.
While some settings may only require an associate degree, others might only accept applicants with a doctorate degree. Consider both long- and short-term goals and aspirations when determining where you’d like to practice and how you want to get there.
2. Soft Skills and Personality Matter
Addiction counselors deal with hundreds if not thousands of people, all with different communication styles and behavioral tendencies. If you want to connect with your clients and make a difference in their lives, you must have the personality and skills to do so.
Often, counselors rely on skills like interpersonal communication, confidence, and listening comprehension to understand and get through to patients. Other times, they’ll tap into their emotions and personal experiences to grant compassion and empathy to those suffering from addiction. Whether you’re planning an intervention or meeting with someone in recovery, these personality traits and skills will help you succeed.
3. It Provides Several Different Career Paths
Addiction counseling offers several different career paths for those interested in entering the field. You must decide which one you want to pursue before choosing your degree and certification. That way you can earn the necessary titles and meet all requirements.
The easiest way to narrow down your options is to choose a certain demographic or setting in which to practice. For instance, you could educate kids at schools or universities or perhaps work with people your own age to connect with patients on a deeper level. Hospitals, local and state governments, outpatient recovery centers, and residential mental health abuse centers may also provide viable career paths depending on your passions and interests.
4. Co-Occurring Disorders Are Common
Being an addiction counselor is a challenging and demanding job. On top of treating clients’ addictions, you’ll also work with people who have co-occurring disorders. That means you’ll have to deal with their behavioral and mental health issues, too.
While some co-occurrences are more common than others, there’s an infinite array of combinations in terms of addictions, mental health disorders, and behavioral issues. The person’s environment will also determine their treatment. You must be willing to work on an individual basis to create effective, comprehensive treatment plans that address all three factors.
Should You Become an Addiction Counselor?
If you’re still unsure whether becoming an addiction counselor is the right move for you, speak to someone who has experience in the field. Perhaps they can shed some light on the matter with personal anecdotes, advice, and words of encouragement.
Experts project that counselors’ employment opportunities will increase by 23% between 2020 and 2030, so there’s no time like the present to consider your options and start your journey.