There are several types of training programs. Some facilities offer on-the-job training, and hire ex-addicts who have a high school diploma and have been sober for two or more years. Personal experience with beating a drug or alcohol addiction offers powerful insight into the challenges and urges of the disease. Shared experiences foster credibility and trust.
Some community and online schools offer structured substance abuse training programs, either geared to recent Master’s degree graduates or to high school graduates looking for a leg up on an entry level position.
Training programs are designed to prepare aspiring counselors for the responsibilities of the job. The primary goal of addiction counseling is to help addicts and alcoholics avoid addictive substances and destructive behaviors caused by drugs and alcohol.
Aspiring counselors learn:
One of the most important skills counselors need to learn is to build open and honest communication with clients from all walks of life, in varying stages of health, and from different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.
Drug addiction not only ruins the addict’s life, it usually will destroy family relationships. Recognizing and educating clients on the long term effects of dysfunctional behavior is a good first step.
As devastating as addiction is for the addict, it can be even worse for children. Listening to family members helps counselors identify home issues and addiction triggers. Using that information, counselors make a plan to help addicts repair family relationships and teach family members how to deal with addictive behaviors.
Substance abuse counselor training includes different treatment methods and techniques to help addicts in life training skills. There are different approaches to addiction treatment. The 12 step program is probably the most popular and widely available group program, but a Christian-based approach won’t appeal to every client.
Addiction often starts with inability to cope with life problems. Clients often suffer from depression, HIV, chronic pain, or other health issues that seem insurmountable. Substance abuse counselors help them find new ways to deal with their stress, such as group meetings where they can talk about their problems, get to know others with similar issues, and work toward sobriety.
Because many addicts have underlying mental issues, training includes understanding of dual issues and crisis management. Most counselors will encounter addicts in crisis at some point in their careers. Clients with suicidal thoughts or anger management issues are common. Coping skills include strategies to fight extreme emotions, stay on prescribed medicines as directed, and avoid drug or alcohol relapse.
Substance abuse counseling trainees sit in on group meetings to observe group dynamics. They learn to moderate and control meetings, and steer the group in positive directions as necessary. Group counselors encourage participants to talk open and honestly about their problems and the consequences of addiction.
Confidentiality is a key component to success in a substance abuse counselor job. It’s imperative that counselors maintain distance from the client by remaining objective.
One of the biggest challenges for becoming a substance abuse counselor is learning to control personal emotions of anger, frustration, and personal concern that can undermine the counselor-patient relationship. They learn the budget and practical limitations of the help they can offer.
There are also legal and ethical rules that can land an uneducated counselor in serious trouble if they aren’t followed. Counselors in training learn legal responsibilities and how to deal with ethical concerns.
The recidivism rate for addicts is astronomical. Quitting is a long and difficult road, and almost every addict will relapse, many repeatedly. Substance abuse counselor training includes recognizing the signs of relapse, along with relapse prevention techniques. Trainees also learn what steps to take after a client has a relapse. Some clients will have to restart treatment numerous times.
Counseling often involves a heavy caseload and a lot of paperwork. Trainees learn to keep detailed notes on each client and effectively manage their time. They learn to keep current information in a contact database and document the efforts they make for their clients.
At the end of their training counselors are equipped with a variety of techniques used to address issues such as mental illness, addiction, substance and alcohol abuse, grief, low self-esteem, and post-traumatic stress and other challenges they will encounter in their jobs. They learn how to help their clients maintain sobriety, repair relationships, and find support.
Substance abuse counselor training also includes connecting with community support resources to help clients make living arrangements, find jobs, and join support groups. Training programs encompass all aspects of the job.