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Become a substance abuse counselor
By Ashley Boyce, an allied health world staff writer
Published: February, 27 2010
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How to become a substance abuse counselor:
- Speak with somebody already working in the profession for an understanding of the work and deeply consider your ability to be personally committed to helping people who have severe addictions.
- Pursue a Substance abuse counselor Associate’s Degree program through your local community college or an online school.
- Apply for a Counselor Registration License so as be able to intern at a treatment facility and satisfy the required 2500 hours of supervised intern clinical work.
- Complete the degree program and apply for a state-specific Chemical Dependency Professional license through your state’s Chemical Dependency Counselor Certification Board. This allows you to enter into unsupervised clinical practice with the CDP, CDC, or LCDC credential.
- Satisfy CEU requirements to maintain licensure.
What are the personality traits of a good chemical dependency counselor?Those interested in knowing how to become a substance abuse counselor will likely innately possess certain characteristics that will naturally draw them to the profession: Compassion, empathy, and strong interpersonal skills. These are among the most vital skills for the job, and they can’t be taught in any substance abuse counseling degree program. CDPs also need to be able to demonstrate strength and confidence when working with clients that may not offer the level of respect that is appropriate to the setting. At the same time a CDP has to be able to avoid passing judgment on the addict because their behavior is so often influenced by mental illness or the illness of addiction. Sydney explained, “Basically we are there to support the patient and meet them where they’re at, and motivate them to change their behavior. If they’re not at that point, we work with them to get to that stage of change.”
Clients expose their vulnerability and share their most personal thoughts and feelings with their counselor so it is not uncommon for them to develop a strong affinity for their counselor that they interpret to be love. This is a psychological phenomenon known as transference, or the displacement of parental love to a maternal or paternal figure. CDPs are bound by an ethical obligation to maintain only professional relationships with clients. Sydney said about her interactions with clients, “You’re sometimes dealing with some of the most difficult people in the population. You have to be able to set boundaries, set limits. This job requires you to be assertive and compassionate. It also requires being driven and self managed. You’re expected to keep yourself going, keep yourself busy.”