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AA Counselor Training Programs and Requirements

Individuals interested in obtaining counseling training in order to work with members of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) can pursue programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Counselors assisting A.A. members are familiar with addiction prevention strategies and treatment methods for recovering alcoholics.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

A.A. does not endorse professional counselors. However, substance abuse and addiction counselors can volunteer their services to A.A. groups and provide addiction counseling to A.A. members trying to remain sober. Depending on the state, training requirements for becoming an addiction counselor vary. Some states may require as little as a high school diploma and counseling certification, while others may require as much as a graduate degree. Licensure or certification is required in most states in order to provide formal counseling services.

Formal Education

Individuals interested in obtaining a counseling degree in order to work with A.A. groups often pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree. At both levels, students participate in supervised practice sessions and often go on to work a semester as a counseling intern.

Bachelor's Degree

At the 4-year degree level, counseling students take classes in group and individual therapy, professional counseling ethics, psychology and mental health drug treatments. They may also take courses in self-help promotion and spirituality as they relate to addiction.

Master's Degree

At the graduate level, students are heavily involved in addiction research. They often study such topics as common issues affecting alcohol and drug counseling, prevention and treatment methods and medical issues that arise from substance abuse.

Job Experience

Alcohol and drug abuse counselors desiring to offer their services to A.A. groups generally have 2-3 years of experience in substance abuse counseling. They are also familiar with A.A.'s 12-Step Program. Additionally, having working knowledge of English and Spanish is often helpful.

Licenses and Certifications

In most states, individuals interested in becoming addiction counselors must obtain licensure or certification, which generally includes passing an examination. Some states have different levels of mandatory certification. In certain areas of the country, individuals with volunteer training, minimal counseling education and no more than a high school diploma can apply for certification. Other states require at least a master's degree and completion of at least two years of demonstrated counseling experience.

Voluntary certification is also available through the National Board for Certified Counselors (www.nbcc.org). Individuals with at least a master's degree in counseling and two years of clinical experience can apply to take this certifying exam. Some states allow individuals who pass this exam exemption from taking an additional state licensing exam. Continuing education is required to maintain certification.

Workshops and Seminars

NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals (www.naadac.org), offers conferences and seminars, which provide continuing education for professionals in the field. Workshops, such as the National Conference on Addiction Disorders, typically last four days. Attendees listen to guest speakers and learn about trends in treatment methods.

Additional Professional Development

Addictions counselors seeking additional knowledge of A.A. can look to the organization's website, (www.aa.org). Counselors can learn the history of A.A. and search archived documents. The site also offers relevant videos, newsletters and informational pages for counseling professionals.

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