Substance Abuse Counselor Education and Training Requirements

Substance abuse counselor training programs are offered at various certificate and degree levels at 4-year universities and community colleges; each state has different educational requirements for licensure. Programs are designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills to help clients during their recovery process. Substance abuse counseling is generally conducted in group settings, though some substance abuse counselors also conduct individual counseling sessions.

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Substance Abuse Counselor Education Information

Individuals interested in becoming substance abuse counselors are urged to check their state's licensure requirements, since educational prerequisites vary greatly by state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, some states require students only complete a high school diploma and obtain certification to become licensed substance abuse counselors. Other states require a master's degree.

Students entering an educational program in substance abuse counseling must have graduated from high school or earned their GED prior to enrollment. Programs can lead to a certificate or degree ranging from associate's to master's. All students should have a desire to help people and their families through the recovery process. Additional prerequisites might be necessary depending on the degree level being pursued.

Prospective substance abuse counselors enrolled in a formal program study topics including patient assessment, treatment planning, group counseling techniques, individual counseling, crisis intervention and case management skills. Additional subjects of study might include interviewing techniques, families and the addiction process, drugs and society, types of substance abuse, crime and drugs, professional ethics and addictive behaviors.

Training Requirements

Students generally need to complete a number of supervised internship hours to complete a substance abuse or addiction counseling program. Some substance abuse counselor programs require up to 460 hours of supervised internship experience under a qualified clinical supervisor or certified mental health professional. Some of these experiences are paid, and some are meant to fulfill specific state certification or licensure requirements. Most programs require around 100-150 hours of internship experience to fulfill training requirements. Many schools offer job placement services to graduates of substance abuse counseling programs.

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