Addiction counseling programs prepare students to work as counselors with people who have alcohol, substance abuse, or gambling addictions. Students learn to assess problems and set up treatment plans. They learn methods for early intervention and prevention.
Have you ever eaten too much or had so much to drink of something that you felt sick? Perhaps you've seen someone doing something to excess that wasn't good for them and wondered why they would do such a thing.
People with addictions do this every day: they do something to excess that isn't good for them. This can include doing drugs, drinking alcohol, gambling, and even eating. Addictions such as these are powerful and can have harmful consequences such as job loss, divorce, criminal activity, and severe illnesses.
From the outside, we might want to ask, "Why don't they just stop?" But if you're an addict, stopping addictive behavior is usually very difficult, especially by yourself. However, studies have shown that addiction is a brain disease. And as a disease, it responds well to treatment.
Addiction counselors provide quality treatment services for addicts by helping them overcome their addictions and lead productive lives. They help addicts heal themselves both physically and mentally and repair damaged relationships. They also counsel friends and family members who have been affected by a person's addiction.
As an addiction counselor, you can work in schools, prisons, or mental health clinics. You can also work in psychiatric hospitals, halfway houses, or in private practice. Some counselors also teach courses and do research that focuses on preventing addiction.
In addiction counseling programs, you take courses in psychology, psychopharmacology (how drugs affect the brain), counseling, and addiction theory. You study different addictions and how they affect the mind, body, and emotions. You learn how to diagnose the addiction, create treatment plans, and run individual and group therapy sessions. You also learn how to work with doctors and social workers, if necessary.
About 130 schools offer addiction counseling programs. However, there are many different kinds of addiction counseling programs. Many two-year schools offer an associate degree or certificate in addiction counseling. Often certificates are offered for people who already have a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field such as nursing, social work, or general counseling. A few schools offer bachelor's and master's degrees in addiction counseling. Several offer minors or concentrations in addiction counseling as part of a counseling, psychology, nursing, or social work program. Very few schools have doctoral degrees in addiction counseling alone.
Associate degrees and certificates usually take one to two years to complete. Typically an entry-level bachelor's degree takes four years. After the bachelor's degree, a master's degree takes two years of additional study.