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Alcohol Abuse Careers

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The demand for qualified alcohol and substance abuse treatment professionals is growing; a variety of important career types within the field of addiction treatment are attainable through various levels of training.

The Need for Treatment Professionals

Addiction medicine is a blossoming industry, with consistent and significant growth in the last ten years. The need for qualified treatment professionals is not slowing down, either, with steady projected growth in the field for at least the next five years. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in recent years, the number of alcohol and drug addiction treatment centers in the United States has been steadily approaching 15,000. Despite this seemingly large number of facilities, only a fraction of those struggling with an addiction to alcohol receive the treatment that they so desperately need.

While it might be great in terms of the number of jobs created, the remarkable growth in the field of addiction treatment sadly parallels the burgeoning numbers of people suffering from drug addiction and abuse—individuals who could use the compassionate care of someone trained to give it. In many markets, the demand for alcohol and proper substance abuse treatment programs easily outpaces the availability of those qualified to administer it, underscoring the necessity for more people interested in these careers.

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Finding Jobs in the Alcohol Abuse Treatment Field

All of this leads us to a discussion of the number of career types within the field of addiction treatment. A desire to help those suffering from a drinking problem or drug abuse issues is a fundamental first step for entering the field. Those serious about making an impact should be ready to undergo the proper preparation—it takes specific types of education and training ready oneself to deliver a high quality of effective care.

Personally evaluating your interests and particular skills will help guide you in your choice of career in the field, and can lead you down paths quite distinct from one another—be it training to be a direct care giver, or education to prepare you as a researcher of potential advances in treatment design or pharmaceutical intervention.

One of the ubiquitous job types in the field of alcohol abuse is that of a professional addiction counselor. Counselors administer intake interviews and evaluate patients seeking treatment for drug dependency. Counselors continue to work with the patient, having entered therapy, educating them on the issues of alcohol abuse, and strive to address the causes of the maladaptive behavior that led to problem drinking and/or drug abuse to begin with. By addressing these issues, the counselor is able to offer therapeutic guidance to help usher a patient towards sobriety.

Depending on the individual’s situation, a specialized treatment plan is devised by the counselor for the patient to follow. The treatment plan takes into account contributing stressors and triggers, then frequently prescribes cognitive and behavioral techniques to help the patient better adapt to such daily events in a way that minimizes the negative influence they might have on drinking behavior in the future.

In helping the patient with their alcohol abuse issues, a counselor also is able to help the patient with their own job issues, as well as extend assistance and education to the patient’s family. As initial treatment reaches an endpoint, a counselor will educate a patient on how to cope with life after treatment, and will make arrangements for that patient to continue with the therapeutic process after treatment ends.

Other key players in the field of alcohol and drug addiction treatment include psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, nurses and others who have received various lengths and levels of education and training to specifically address the needs of a population with concurrent mental health, alcohol and/or substance abuse problems. Many of these jobs deal with direct care of a patient in need, however, there are a number of academic careers that contribute more to the field of addiction treatment by means of research rather than direct patient care.

Areas of study for these types of jobs could include:

  • Treatment type efficacy.
  • Pharmaceutical advances in the field of addiction medicine.
  • The study of addiction epidemiology or patterns of alcohol and substance abuse in our country.

Whichever career one might choose, they all work in concert to help a large percentage of our population in need of help, with the ultimate goal being successful treatment and prevention of the addiction epidemic that we find ourselves in.

Employment Training

As mentioned, the variety of careers and degrees needed in the field of drug and alcohol abuse treatment are quite diverse. Each has its own set of education and training requirements.

Career Types and Relevant Degrees

  • Certified Substance Abuse Counselor—Can begin with a high school diploma, followed by multiple levels of certification, based on length of experience and training.
  • Certified Peer Specialist—This route would be of interest to someone that has first-hand experience with substance use or mental health issues. Peer specialists must have a high school diploma and additional training towards their certification. They will engage their peers in the community, provide support, and assist with their treatment and daily needs.
  • Associate Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling—Can require two years of full-time study after high school.
  • Bachelor Degree in a Substance Abuse Treatment Related Field—Requires four years as a full-time student after high school in psychology, social work, or a related field. Someone with a four-year degree may not be able to provide direct care in some settings but can be effective as a case manager to assess needs and secure resources for the client.
  • Registered Nurse (RN)—Can require up to four years as a full-time student after high school.
  • Master’s Degree in Related Field—Two additional years of study post-bachelor level in psychology, counseling, or other program. Most programs will require internships or practical placements to gain experience before graduation.
  • Master’s of Social Work (MSW)—Two additional years of study post-bachelor level in a social work program. Field placements as an intern or student social worker will be required as well.
  • Doctorate Degree (MD, PhD, PsyD, others)—For careers such as clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Typically requires at least 4 years of post-bachelor study with internships and residencies likely adding on to the total time commitment.

This list above by no means exhausts all the possibilities. The degrees themselves, once obtained, lay the groundwork for further specialized coursework, fieldwork, supervision and licensing to prepare one as an addiction specialist.

Furthermore, each state has its own variations on training and licensing requirements that include some combination of education, experience in the field after the conclusion of the education, and passing a comprehensive written exam. These make the array of positions even more variable. The differences in education, experience, and licensure impact the level of care one can provide and pay for their services. It also demonstrates the wide range of career options in the field, and helps show that there are a number of skill and educational levels that cater to anyone seeking a place in the field of alcohol or drug addiction treatment.

How to Get Help for Alcohol Misuse

No matter which career choice one makes in the field, qualified treatment professionals of all types help to mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol abuse. If you or a loved one could use the drug or alcohol help and compassionate care of one of the aforementioned treatment professionals, call our hotline and speak to one of our treatment support specialists for information about centers providing recovery assistance. You can contact us for free at . You can also check your insurance benefits online now to determine whether your insurance provider will cover rehabilitation.

There are also free drug abuse and alcohol addiction hotline numbers you can call.

Levels of Care in Addiction Treatment

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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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