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How to Become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor

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Substance abuse counselors play a major role in helping people struggling with addiction to get back on their feet. In this field, you work with drug and alcohol patients in one-on-one or group settings to identify addiction triggers and execute effective treatment plans. While educational requirements vary by occupation, a master's degree solidifies your qualifications for a high-level counseling position.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree in applied psychology or clinical psychology starts your education for substance abuse counseling. A master's degree in a similar field is the next step. During your degree, you will take various science and psychology classes to understand the mental, physical and emotional tolls that addictive substances exact on people. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also indicates that most states require counselors to gain licensure. A master's degree and at least 2,000 hours of supervised work are common requirements.

Skills Needed

You need several important attributes or acquired skills for success in substance abuse counseling. Compassion for the plight of those afflicted with addiction is primary. You can't counsel addicts when you hold a judgmental belief system. Interpersonal skills and listening allow you to establish rapport and build trust. Effective communication skills help establish you as credible to patients and enables you to articulate therapy recommendations. Finally, patience is a must, given the unpredictable timeline for patient progress during treatment.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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