What type of education is needed for drug and alcohol counseling? Substance abuse knows no racial, ethnic or gender boundaries. Cutting across religions, economic classes and political creeds, addictions to alcohol and drugs leave wreckage ranging from job loss and bankruptcy to divorce and even death. Depending on the strength and duration of the dependence, getting clean and sober can be a demanding and daunting task. Sometimes, medication is required. More often, 12-step fellowship groups are employed. Almost always, those who successfully beat enslavement to substances engage in counseling with a skilled professional. Such skills are attained through experience and through academic coursework designed to instill knowledge and aptitude in the counselor.
While educational requirements for Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor (CDAC) vary by state, most jurisdictions require a bachelor’s degree before embarking on certificate training. This is usually not an obstacle since many CADC aspirants already have this credential, perhaps even possessing advanced degrees in mental health fields. That said, the required undergraduate education does not necessarily have to be in psychology as long as it demonstrates to certificate programs that a candidate possesses the maturity and competence to complete an accredited program. These are but two qualities expected in a prospective counselor for troubled individuals.
Areas of Competency
A certified CDAC is part therapist, part social worker. As such, he or she must have a thorough grasp of certain core competencies:
1. Community Resources — the CDAC will know how to coordinate the many local assets available to serve the client in optimal fashion. These resources include medical doctors, mental health practitioners, hospitals, schools and community centers. As part of a team, the CDAC must know the teammates, their roles, as well as the laws governing addiction treatment.
2. Clinical Applications — as a counselor, a CDAC should be informed about compulsive pathologies and personality disorders. Likewise, he or she should be versed in treatment methods derived from scientific evidence.
3. Family Issues — many have heard the adage that addiction is a family disease. Certified counselors operate from the knowledge of family dynamics and domestic histories. Addressing family issues in treatment is nearly universal. Sometimes, family members are actually included in counseling sessions.
4. Co-Occurring Disorders — sometimes, addiction is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dysfunctional behavior. Research indicates it often accompanies problems like narcissism, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or avoidant personality disorder. In each case, counselors must determine whether addiction can be treated as a component of a larger pathology.
5. Biological Basis for Addiction — Brain chemistry can make addictive personality more likely. Conversely, brain chemistry can be severely altered by the long-term use of alcohol and drugs. A CDAC will understand the physiological causes and effects of antisocial behaviors.
The candidate for a Drug and Alcohol Counseling Certificate may have several choices with regard to coursework. Many colleges and universities offer certificate preparation programs. In addition, some state governments house programs to train addiction professionals. The good news for CDAC hopefuls is that they have many sources to ask what type of education is needed for Drug and Alcohol Counseling.