Becoming an Addiction Therapist
If a person is interested in how to become a substance abuse counselor, there are some helpful personality traits that they should inherently possess; strong interpersonal communication skills, compassion, empathy, and a good listener are a couple of examples of traits. Inner strength and outward confidence are important because working with some clients can be very challenging. It can be a struggle for some counselors to extend respect even when they may not be receiving the same courtesy. Skills such as humility and strength cannot be taught or learned in school. A substance abuse counselor has to avoid judgment of patients because so often their behavior is a symptom manifesting from addiction or mental illness. Basically a substance abuse counselor is there to support the patient to set goals, meet benchmarks, and motivate change. Patience with cautious expectation is a must if studying how to become a substance abuse counselor. Interestingly, according to statistical data, a majority of those who decide to pursue a degree in chemical dependency counseling, are often recovering alcoholics and drug addicts themselves. Others who express interest in how to become a substance abuse counselor are people who have had experience dealing with a drug addict or alcoholic in their own lives. Previous use or experience with addiction and abuse are certainly not a pre-requisite in how to become a substance abuse counselor. However, it can make it easier to understand the dilemmas and challenges clients will face.
Steps by step on How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor
- Step 1: Decide the state you would like to become a counselor in. Each state has specific requirements and regulations. It is important to research the states you would like to practice in.
- Step 2: Establish which areas of expertise you would like to practice. Ask yourself what environment and type of patient most interests you?
- Step 3: Find the school that best suits your needs. Is an on-line education most desirable or a campus based school? Which school has the programs you will need to get the level of education you desire?
- Step 4: Enroll in school and work your program. Apply for your temporary license certification to enable you to get started on your internship/externship required hours.
- Step 5: Complete all internship hours and take tests outlined by your specific state health department to gain a permanent license/certificate to practice.
- Step 6: Apply for jobs that fit your interests and long-term goals.
Personality Traits of an Addiction Therapist
The attitude of a client is closely related with how they have arrived at a treatment facility. It has been found that patients that are placed in recovery due to a court order may be more difficult to invoke change. The best results have been found with patients that come on their own free will. To change ones’ attitude and perspective on life can be a very lonely, painful process, and requires complete dedication on an addict’s part. In order to recover, an addict must be willing to share their most personal thoughts and feelings with a counselor. It is not uncommon for a patient to develop a strong affinity for a counselor that might be interpreted as love. This is a psychological phenomenon known as transference. Transference is defined as, “the displacement of parental love to a maternal or paternal figure”. Substance abuse counselors are bound by ethical laws to maintain a professional relationship with their clients. This job requires a professional to be assertive and compassionate while setting healthy boundaries and limits. It also requires self management and motivation.