How Long Does it Take to Become a Drug Counselor?

Substance abuse counselors provide treatment and counseling to individuals with alcoholism, drug addiction, or other behavioral problems. To become a licensed substance abuse counselor in a private center, states typically require up to six years of college education and 3,000 hours of supervised work experience. However, counselors working in a government substance abuse program may qualify for the position with a high school diploma, addiction counseling courses, and up to three years of supervised work experience. Requirements for education vary by state.

The SAMHSA National Helpline is a free referral service that provides information about treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. It is available 24/7 in both English and Spanish. Text messaging service 435748 (HELP4U) is currently only available in English. If you are uninsured or underinsured, the helpline can refer you to state-funded treatment programs or facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid.

Alcohol and drug addiction affects the entire family. Substance abuse counselors help families understand how treatment works and how to help children from families affected by alcohol and drug abuse. The SAMHSA store provides additional resources for those affected by substance abuse. The first step in the accreditation process for substance abuse counselors is the submission of a CASAC application to the OASAS Accreditation Unit. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and will remain active for five years from the date of the postmark.

Substance abuse counselors work closely with clients to create and implement treatment plans. They conduct individual therapy sessions with people who experience substance abuse problems and provide group counseling sessions where people verbally process their experiences. Substance abuse counselors also study how different substances affect the brain, emotional health, and behaviors. They actively listen to their clients and take notes during a session, as well as connect patients and their families to useful community resources.

Some substance abuse counselors even contribute to substance abuse prevention and education efforts by organizing community seminars or speaking in schools. In New York, there is only one level of certification for substance abuse counselors: Accredited Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC). This certification requires specific education, training, experience, examinations, and signing of a Code of Ethics. To become a Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CADC), individuals must first complete courses at an accredited institution such as Sober College School of Addiction Studies. The International Certification Reciprocity Consortium & (IC&RC) exam for alcohol and drug counselors is a 150-question computer-based multiple-choice exam derived from the Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) tasks identified in the IR&RC ADC Candidate Guide.

Wade Pfalmer
Wade Pfalmer

Hardcore organizer. Freelance zombie buff. Passionate social media junkie. Hardcore web specialist. Typical coffee fanatic. Lifelong tv fanatic.

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