Chemical dependency counselors work with individuals who are addicted to alcohol, drugs, or other substances. The work might entail one-on-one counseling or it might entail group counseling or family counseling. To become a chemical dependency counselor, you generally will need a college degree, a post-graduate degree, and a post-graduate internship.
Of note, chemical dependency counselors vary in terms of the extent of their education. For instance, some people become a chemical dependency counselor with just a high school diploma and experience, while others go to college and graduate school. Much depends on the state in which they work since state laws differ in terms of the requirements to become a chemical dependency counselor.
It can be helpful to get a college degree if you want to become a chemical dependency counselor. Also, it can be helpful to have an undergraduate major in counseling or psychology because those majors will introduce you to the counseling techniques that you will be exploring more in depth in graduate school. This is not to say that an undergraduate major in psychology or counseling is an absolute requirement for graduate training in counseling. Rather, having a counseling or psychology undergraduate degree can be helpful in providing a foundation upon which you can pursue graduate study.
Generally, it is recommended that you apply for graduate school during the final semester in college. The Master of Science (MS) degree in counseling is generally recommended for anyone who wants to become a chemical dependency counselor. This degree in counseling typically requires coursework such as human development, interviewing, counseling theory and assessment. Also, graduate counseling programs typically require an internship that supplements classroom experience with supervised real-world counseling experience.
When they have completed the MS degree, counselors must complete their post-graduate supervised internship experience. Given that the career goal is to be a chemical dependency counselor, the post-graduate internship experience will involve supervised experiences in doing counseling with chemically dependent clients. After completion of the post-graduate internship, counselors obtain licensure. Counseling licensure requirements differ depending on location. It is important for you to be aware of the relevant laws wherever you plan to work so that you will be in compliance and able to legally work as a chemical dependency counselor.
Once you are a full-fledged chemical dependency counselor, you can work in a variety of settings. For example, chemical dependency counselors work in rehabilitation centers, mental health centers, government office buildings, private practice, prisons, jails, or hospitals. Chemical dependency counselors may be working with men or women of any age who have addiction challenges.
Keep in mind that working as a chemical dependency counselor is very intense work. For example, chemical dependency counselors work long hours and the pay varies. Also, every day can be a crisis for the client and this puts extra stress on the counselor. Thus, counselors must go to extreme lengths to care for themselves so they do not succumb to burnout. Nonetheless, being a chemical dependency counselor can be a rewarding job.