Drug abuse in the United States is a beast to overcome. Now more than ever before, the nation as a whole could use more substance abuse counselors to help people who are struggling with debilitating drug and alcohol abuse problems.
What Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do?
The role of a substance abuse counselor or addiction specialist can be very versatile and rewarding. However, this position is not for the faint of heart, as counselors often must endure laborious hours and emotional stress as they work with others who have challenging physical and mental problems.
Depending on the certification obtained, a substance abuse counselor will be responsible for fulfilling the following responsibilities:
- Spend one-on-one time with patients to gain an understanding of their individual needs and goals
- Evaluate health history and determine the course of care
- Teach helpful lifelong coping mechanisms that do not involve drugs
- Helping rehabilitate and establish a sustainable lifestyle for drug users when they are discharged from treatment
- Lead therapy sessions with groups, including talk therapy and CBT or DBT
- Provide support to family members of patients
Types of Drug Counselling Certifications
There are tens of different certificates that can be obtained as a substance abuse counselor. Each certificate corresponds to a very specific function in the role of providing addiction treatment to patients with drug or alcohol problems. The most common certifications include:
Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC): There are three levels for this type of certification, with CADC-III being the top level accreditation.
Related positions: Addiction Services Director, Addiction Recovery Specialist, Addiction Services Clinical Coordinator, Certified Addiction Counselor
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): Those with LCSW accreditation are trained to be involved in direct therapy sessions with drug-addicted sufferers. Those with LCSW certification can be involved in similar roles as a clinical psychologist, with very subtle differences in terms of education and training.
Related positions: Associate Social Worker, Clinical Social Worker
Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor (PLPC): People who have a PLPC have general duties to assist patients at all stages of their care, from intake and admissions to discharge and evaluation. This certificate is usually obtained in tandem with other counselor certifications.
Related positions: Outpatient Addiction Coordinator, Addiction Support Worker
Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC): A person with a LAC certification will help patients overcome destructive addictions by working with them directly as well as their families to help identify root causes of addiction. This role will require an evaluation of files and health records to ensure that patients are on the right track.
Related positions: Licensed Addiction Counselor, Addiction Therapist
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC): substance abuse counselors with this certification will be involved in establishing a relationship with patients to assess the situations and events leading up to their addiction and enrollment. This relationship will allow the LMHC discover personalized intervention strategies.
Related positions: Addiction Counselor, Mental Health Specialist
Related positions: Addiction Recovery Specialist, Director of Addiction Counseling
National Certified Counselor (NCC): An NCC will need to have psychotherapy skills and training, with robust experience in designing effective techniques for group and individual rehabilitation.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): An LPC will help the LMHC come up with effective approaches to providing some form of treatment and plan of care for addicts. They will collaborate to find preferred outcomes that might yield the greatest likelihood of successful rehabilitation.
Related positions: Addiction Program Manager, Addiction Clinical Manager
How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor
Depending on the role you would like to position yourself within, the above licenses can be obtained at most college and university programs offering a degree in Social Work within a projected 2-5 years of completion. Most reputable addiction recovery centers will also demand that applicants come with some kind of real-life apprenticeship or internship experience working with at-risk individuals with a proven track record of helping assist and rehabilitate a drug or alcohol addict.
History of Addiction Treatment
Addiction treatment programs are very prolific today as a result of the ongoing drug abuse in the United States. However, it was not until the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation was created that addiction treatment became a widely known option for addiction recovery, which would have during the Reagan administration during the ’70s.
The hope of helping those struggling with drug or alcohol problems isn’t such a far cry away from our current reality. With ongoing funding for addiction treatment centers in the United States, the threat of drug addiction might finally subside sooner than later.