Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Qualifications for Substance Abuse Specialists
Generally speaking, substance abuse specialists help people who have problems with drugs and alcohol by identifying issues and behavior which could be linked to their addiction. There are numerous different areas available to specialists, from behavioral to psychodynamic psychology. These are covered within the many different degrees and courses now on offer, so that graduates can then begin to work within their preferred specialty. The term substance abuse counselor can also be used to describe people helping those with drug and alcohol addiction. It is not uncommon to see the words specialist and counselor used interchangeably.
Those wishing to assist those dependent on drugs and alcohol will have to first receive the proper education. The most basic requirement of this is to procure a bachelor’s degree. Preferably the degree or course work would include topics such as basic counseling skills for individuals, groups and families, crisis intervention techniques, program evaluation, ethics, records management as well as numerous other psychology and sociology courses. Of course, there are variations on the degree name and the topics covered from university to university, and some of the most common offerings are listed below:
* Bachelor of Arts/Science in Psychology
* Bachelor of Arts/Science in Counseling
* Bachelor of Sociology
* Bachelor of Psychology
* Bachelor of Social Sciences
* Bachelor of Psychology in Substance Abuse
These bachelor’s degrees are required for entry-level positions found in the substance abuse field. These include therapists, counselors, clinicians, care managers and rehabilitation coordinators, in which the basic skills and techniques are honed and developed.
Those looking to further their career as a qualified substance abuse counselor or therapist will need to complete some sort of graduate program. The simplest option is a master’s degree, which can have numerous forms depending on the university involved. Some employers even offer to pay for this continued education within their contracts as part of their employee’s ongoing training. A small list of the different variants is written below:
* Master of Science in Addiction Counseling
* Master of Science in Psychology/Addictions
* Master of Science in Human Services
* Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling
* Master of Arts in Counseling
* Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
These master’s programs should have a combination of theory, research and practice so that the student can then learn a myriad of knowledge and skills which they can then use in their career. Some degrees even come with internship programs, ensuring that graduates have real-world experience so that they can then apply themselves to assisting those with drug and alcohol addiction in the best possible manner.
The highest level of education which a substance abuse specialist or counselor can achieve is a PhD, For this degree program lengthy research is done in order to promote the field in a specific way. This usually includes collecting and analyzing data in order to determine a particular trend to developing a new form of treatment method. Students will have the chance to make a difference when it comes to assisting those who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. Some of the most common offerings are listed below:
* PhD in Substance Abuse Counseling
* PhD in Addiction/Substance Abuse
* PhD in Psychology
* PhD in Epidemiology or Public Health
After receiving a PhD, it is possible to become a clinical psychologist who can legally prescribe drugs and offer a high level of medical advice to their patients. In this position, a professional has the most chance of helping those struggling with addiction in their everyday lives.
Depending on the specific country, state or province in which someone lives, there are various licensing regulations and organizations which must be adhered to in order for a candidate to successfully become a fully-recognized substance abuse counselor or specialist in their area. These rules may simply request a person to complete a certain level of academic training or they may require the successful completion of an accredited examination. Other factors, such as workshops, conferences and seminars may also be taken into account. In the USA, these licensing programs vary from state to state with some areas being stricter than others.
There are other certificates and qualifications which an enthusiastic substance abuse specialist can voluntarily sign up for. The Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals offers certification and diplomas for counselors and managers in the substance abuse field, some of which ensure that graduates are then eligible to be listed on the UK Register of Counsellors/Psychotherapists (UKRCP). These certificates may not be mandatory but they are useful. They provide proof that the specialist in question is providing therapy which is up to a certain standard. This then ensures that patients are comfortable with seeing their counselor and are more open to the treatment suggestions which are prescribed.
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