What Is a Substance Abuse Counselor?
There are several classifications of addiction treatment staff. To be a licensed or certified substance abuse counselor, the therapist must possess a bachelor's or master's degree and have experience in addiction and substance abuse counseling.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor:
"A behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselor helps people who have problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, and eating disorders. They counsel individuals to help them to identify behaviors and problems related to their addiction. Substance abuse counseling can be done on an individual basis, but is frequently done in a group setting and can include crisis counseling, daily or weekly counseling, or drop-in counseling supports. Counselors are trained to assist in developing personalized recovery programs that help to establish healthy behaviors and provide coping strategies."
A Substance Abuse Counselor Must Possess One of the Following Credentials:
- Certified Addiction Professional (C.A.P.). This certification requires a bachelor’s degree.
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor (L.M.H.C.). This license requires a master’s degree.
- Ph.D. or PsyD. This is the highest level graduate degree. A Ph.D. or PsyD can become licensed as a psychologist.
There is a significant difference in training and expertise of a therapist who has a master's degree and certification and a person who has a certification alone. The quality of the therapist is dependent upon his or her knowledge and ability to empathize, be compassionate, challenge appropriately, support and guide the addict through a confusing, self-reflective, early recovery time.
A licensed or certified substance abuse counselor can work independently, in an outpatient clinic or as a member of a multidisciplinary team in a substance abuse rehab.
What does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do?
Quality treatment is generally dependent upon the treatment philosophy, the qualifications of the clinical staff, medical staff, program dynamics, the use of best practices and inclusion of 12-step workshops, as well as the facility's ability to address specific demographic needs.
Addiction treatment grounded in best practices with a multidisciplinary team of addiction certified doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and master's level therapists and clinicians can offer the patient the most comprehensive addiction treatment available. This multidisciplinary team approach generally relies on a variety of therapeutic modalities. While certified addiction physicians and psychiatrists can address physical health problems and emotional trauma, substance abuse counselors generally lead the individual and group therapy sessions. Because of this specialization between fields, a better educated and trained staff allow for a more in-depth therapeutic experience.
The complexity of addiction necessitates an intuitive, creative, caring, therapist. Dedication to the patient's personal growth forms the foundation for good substance abuse counseling. Many times, counselors themselves are recovering.
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