How to Become A Professional Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor

Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor

The need for qualified alcohol and substance abuse counselors continues to rise. This rewarding and challenging career requires counselors to work directly with patients who are struggling with addiction.

Part of the job is to help patients identify the situations that trigger their addiction that can lead them back into alcohol and substance use. Counselors also help guide patients to the help they need by referring them to service organizations and support groups.

Demand for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselors

The need for alcohol and substance abuse counselors is certainly high. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projectsthat the number of substance abuse counselors (as well as mental health andbehavioral disorder counselors) will increase 23% nationwide by 2026.

In Massachusetts, growth is expected to reach 17.6%, according to the BLS-powered Projections Central website.  According to the BLS, alcohol and substance abuse counselors commonly work in the following locations:

  • Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers
  • Individual and family services
  • Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Government agencies

How to Become an Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor

Most jobs as alcohol and substance abuse counselors require a bachelor’s degree. One career path option is through earning a bachelor’s degree in human services and rehabilitation studies, then augmenting it with a certificate in alcohol and substance abuse counseling.

The criteria for entering the field varies widely depending on which state a counselor wants to practice in. Requirements range from a bachelor’s degree to a highschool diploma with certification, according to the BLS.

The certificate in alcohol and substance abuse counseling at Assumption College focuses on preparing graduates to become counselors in Massachusetts.

Becoming a Counselor in Massachusetts

There are three main steps to becoming an alcohol and substance abuse counselor in Massachusetts. Here’s a look at them, using the certificate program at Assumption College as an example.

Find a Qualified Program

It’s important to enter a program that has been approved by the right organizations. For example, the certificate program at Assumption College has been approved by the  National CertificationCommission for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), the Massachusetts Departmentof Public Health for Licensure of Alcohol and Drug Counselor and theMassachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification (CADC).

Earn a Certificate

The certificate program includes alcohol and drug-specific studies, substance-use service assessment, counseling techniques, professional ethics and studying behavioral and social issues.

At Assumption College, coursework includes:

  • Introduction to Human Services and Rehabilitation Studies
  • Addiction: Etiology, Assessment, Treatment, and Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatric Rehabilitation
  • Interviewing Techniques in Human and Rehabilitation Services
  • Principles of Case Management
  • Family Aspects of Disability
  • Treatment Strategies and Interventions for Substance Use Disorders

The certificate program also includes an internship to obt first-hand experience working with real patients.

Take the Exams

The Assumption College program is specifically designed to prepare graduates to take and pass the exams needed to earncertification as an alcohol and substance abuse counselor in Massachusetts.

Those exams are the Certified Alcohol/Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC) exam and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for Licensure of Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADCII and LADC Assistant) certification.

The Careers of Substance website run by the state of Massachusetts offers detailed information on the steps needed to become a counselor in the state. That includes information on various settings and specific jobs in the counseling field.

Alcohol and substance abuse counselors are more in demand than ever as a growing population learns to look for help in dealing with and healing from addictions and surrounding challenges. For those who want a career in a field where they make a significant impact on patients, earning certification as an alcohol and substance abuse counselor is a move worth considering.