Becoming a Drug and Alcohol Counselor
If you have gone through addiction personally and reached a point at which you feel comfortable with your sobriety, you may feel like it is time to give back and help others achieve the same success. The twelfth step encourages you to "carry this message to alcoholics still suffering." This means that as someone who has made it through the twelve-step program to sobriety, you have a responsibility to lead others along the steps. Helping others can also help you. As you work with addicts, you may find it easier to stay sober, many people do.
Maybe you have never been an addict, but someone you love has. The experience of helping a family member or friend overcome addiction can be a devastating one. It is extremely difficult to watch someone go through the struggle of getting sober, but if you found your ability to help empowering, you may consider becoming an addiction counselor.
Do you Have What it Takes?
If you are a recovering addict, you must be in a strong position of sobriety to help others. Groups like AA and NA recommend that those who wish to be sponsors to mentor newly recovering addicts be sober for at least a year first. While helping others through the process can be rewarding and inspiring, you need to be strong. It is not easy to listen to the problems of others and to help them get over their fears and issues. And as a counselor you will have a greater responsibility to stay sober. The pressure can be too much for some.
In addition to being comfortable with your sobriety, you need to be a patient and good listener. Counseling of any type requires you to listen to others’ problems with compassion, kindness, and attentiveness. If you do not have these abilities, counseling may not be the right choice.
How to Become an Addiction Counselor
The requirements and steps for becoming a counselor vary state by state. Regardless of what state you live in, there are a few steps you need to take to start a career as a counselor.
- Decide if you are ready. If you are in recovery and unsure if you can start helping others, you need to discuss it with someone you trust. If you have been working with a sponsor, for instance, he or she can give you an outside perspective on your own state of sobriety.
- Figure out requirements. In some states you only need an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree to begin working with addicts as a counselor. Other states require more, like licensing through the state or certification through a professional organization. These states may also require that you hold a master’s degree and complete training hours under the supervision of a licensed professional.
- Start your education. Whatever state you live in, you will need some amount of education. It could take you as few as two years or as many as six years to achieve the needed degrees and certification. Find programs in your area to get started as soon as possible.
- Consider volunteering. Helping out in your AA or NA group can give you valuable experience. Having that experience can help you as you attempt to gain admission to degree programs and to get a job at a clinic, hospital, or private practice.