Education and Licensure Requirements for Drug and Alcohol Therapists

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Drug and Alcohol therapists are individuals who have been trained to work with those suffering from addiction. Therapists can play a vital role in helping alcoholics or drug addicts with their recovery. Some drug and alcohol therapists are in recovery themselves. If that is the case, they have likely been in recovery for a substantial period of time. The fact that they have personal experience with addiction makes these individuals uniquely qualified to work with other alcoholics or addicts.

Others enter the field because they are drawn to the helping profession. These people see a need in their community to do something for those who are having a difficult time trying to help themselves. Many enter the field right after college and after completion of an internship at a drug and alcohol treatment or rehabilitation center. Others have obtained a degree in social work, psychology, or counseling and are looking for a specialization.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the field for drug abuse therapists will grow by a whopping 34%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This is good news for those with interest in the profession, although admittedly, it’s also quite a sad reflection of the magnitude of the substance abuse issues facing society today.

Drug and Alcohol Therapists

For those interested in becoming a drug and alcohol therapist, there is a fairly consistent path to becoming qualified to enter the field. Educational classes are required for all drug and alcohol therapists. These classes usually consist of basic pharmacology, dual disorders, assessments, counseling, family dynamics, individual and group therapy, and more. Many times, these classes are taught at community colleges as part of a certification program. If a student wishes, they can also complete community college general education classes, so upon graduation, they are qualified to receive an associate’s degree. Most in the field agree that obtaining an associate’s degree is fast becoming the minimum standard for entering the drug and alcohol field.

Like most other professions, the more education one has, the better the opportunities will be for career advancement, and subsequently, for better pay. Degrees that will enable a person to work as a drug and alcohol therapist include social work, psychology, counseling, behavioral health or education. Upon the completion of a baccalaureate degree, many students continue on to a master’s degree program. A master’s degree can usually be obtained within one to three years, depending on if the individual is attending school full or part-time.

Some states will not require any post-secondary education, while others will require a minimum of an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. For the states that do not require any education beyond a high school diploma or GED, you should still plan to take specific drug and alcohol classes, and most states require a certain number of educational hours in the classes listed above. Some states will allow all, or a portion, of those classes to be taken online. The states that allow this option will usually post a list of approved schools on their website.

One additional step that some therapists take is to obtain licensure. The requirements for licensure vary by state. Not all states require drug and alcohol therapists to be licensed. It’s important to check the specific requirements for the state you plan to practice in.

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