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How do I Become a Substance Abuse Therapist?

Laura M. Sands
Updated May 17, 2024
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In order to become a substance abuse therapist, you will most likely need a college degree. The level of education you need to work as a drug therapist will vary according to where you live. In some areas, you can begin training to become an addiction counselor with a bachelor’s degree. In most areas of the United States, however, a master’s degree is needed before you can be licensed to become a substance abuse therapist.

Before deciding to become a substance abuse therapist, you should also naturally possess a certain amount of compassion for others, as well as a compelling urge to help people in need. You must be able to work with people from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures; be of respectful and trustworthy character; and be able to multitask, handle stress effectively and work independently or in a group environment. Having an ability to refrain from judging others while helping individuals find a way out of desperate circumstances is also crucial prior to setting a goal to become a substance abuse therapist.

Some colleges and universities offer specific classes for certification in addiction counseling. In order to become a substance abuse therapist licensed to work in the field, however, you should major in psychology, social work, education or some other related field. Once you have obtained the degree necessary for licensing in your region, you may then take an examination to obtain your license to become a substance abuse therapist.

After becoming licensed, a substance abuse counselor also may obtain an optional certification, which is separate from licensing. Such certification offers a distinction highlighting your specialty as an addiction counselor. While additional certification is not mandatory, some employers do require it before work is offered. Occupational experts agree that it is a good idea to obtain additional certification to increase your chances of finding gainful employment in this field.

Once you become a substance abuse therapist, you may find employment at addiction treatment centers, jails, halfway houses, schools and community-based organizations. Hospitals also frequently employ substance abuse counselors, as do government-run counseling agencies. After you become a substance abuse therapist, you may also open a private practice, author books on the subject and spend time speaking to groups about recovering from addiction.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.
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Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
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