How to Become an Addiction Counselor

Addiction counselors are responsible for handling the psychological well being of recovering addicts. Addiction counselors can focus on specific areas, such as drugs or alcohol, or cover a wide range of addictions. Becoming an addiction counselor takes dedication, patience and at least four years of higher education.


Though requirements vary by state, most states require a Master’s degree in behavioral science or an approved counseling program to become a licensed addiction counselor. Alternately, some states allow you to become licensed after two years of supervised field experience with a Bachelor’s degree. During the course of your education, you must complete forty eight to sixty semester hours of graduate study, which includes supervised clinical experience.


Some states don’t require you to be licensed on the national level; however, all states require you to take the state licensing exam. For national certification by the National Board for Certified Counselors, you must take and pass the national board certified exam. In addition to the exam, you must either have two years of supervised field experience or be a graduated of a college program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of counseling and Related Educational Programs.

To maintain your licensure, you must retake the state and national exams every five years. To avoid retaking the exam, you have the option of taking one hundred hours of continuing education courses related to your field every five years. Continuing education credits can be sent to the state licensing board for approval. State requirements vary, which means the number of continuing education hours may vary as well.


Upon becoming a licensed addiction counselor, you must take an oath to treat your patients to the best of your ability, while remaining unbiased. All information discussed between you and your patients must be kept confidential. Remember that your patients trust you to help them work through their problems. Sharing confidential information can result in patients refusing to see you and may result in having your license revoked.


In addition to education and licensure, you must be mentally capable of handling the responsibilities of an addiction counselor. All personal problems must be forgotten while handling the needs of your patients. Addiction counselors often speak to other counselors to better cope with the stress. It’s easy to become personally invested in your patients’ problems, which can damage your own emotional stability. If you find yourself to emotionally invested, speak to another counselor or a therapist.

Being an addiction counselor can be extremely rewarding, but can be emotionally draining at the same time. You can focus on drugs, alcohol, physical addictions, any other addiction or focus on a specific area. Becoming an addiction counselor requires four to six years of college education, plus continuing education courses after graduation. Before becoming an addiction counselor, check exact requirements for licensure in your state. Though you don’t have to be licensed nationally, this lends more credibility to your profession.


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