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How do I Become a Drug Therapist?

Article Details
  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Drug therapists work at rehabilitation centers, psychiatric hospitals, and outpatient clinics to counsel people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. They facilitate individualized and group therapy sessions to teach clients how to overcome their problems and live healthy, productive lives. The education and training requirements to become a drug therapist vary between regions and employers, though most professionals obtain college degrees and pass licensing examinations before working directly with clients. A person who wants to become a drug therapist can find out about specific requirements in his or her area by researching government Web sites and inquiring with potential employers.

Many accredited two-year community colleges and four-year universities offer programs designed to prepare students for drug and alcohol counseling. A person who wants to become a drug therapist can speak with admissions counselors at different schools to determine the best program for his or her career goals. Once enrolled in school, a student usually takes several psychology, biology, and sociology courses to gain a fundamental understanding of the brain and human behavior. In addition, classes in communications, statistics, and computer science can help a person gain the technical skills necessary to become a drug therapist.

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While attending college, many undergraduate students apply for internship or assistant positions at local mental health centers to gain practical experience in the field. An intern has the chance to learn job skills firsthand from established drug therapists, counselors, and licensed psychologists. Previous experience can be very influential to prospective employers when applying for actual drug therapist jobs in the future.

A college graduate can determine the specific licensing requirements to become a drug therapist in his or her region by speaking with professors and perusing the appropriate government Web sites. Many regions require that new drug therapists gain a certain number of supervised working hours and pass a written exam to earn a license. Internship hours completed during school often count toward the requisite hours needed.

In some regions, a person can become a drug therapist with a high school diploma and a certificate from an accredited addictions counselor training program. In order to meet licensing requirements, he or she might need to take continuing education classes at a community college or vocational school while working at a mental health center. Some facilities cover the cost of employees' training courses, but new workers often have to pay tuition themselves.

Most new drug therapists enjoy pay raises and opportunities for advancement after earning their licenses. With experience, a professional may be able to obtain an administrative position within a private rehabilitation center or public clinic. Many therapists who like their work and have the desire to advance further choose to return to school and earn advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, or counseling.

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