Educational requirements depend in part on the facility. Some facilities require nothing more than a high school diploma and state certification, others such as hospitals and government agencies, may require a Bachelor's degree or higher in counseling, with an emphasis on alcohol and drug abuse. There are many counseling certification programs available at vocational schools and colleges. There are also a number of accredited online certification and degree programs.
Training often ties in with education level. Counselors with a four year degree or a graduate degree are often hired without additional training. Those with certificates, but no formal higher education, are often required to go through a period of supervised on-the-job training before counseling patients on their own.
Substance abuse counseling is also a vocation where having personal experience on the other side of the equation is considered a benefit, and many former addicts go on to make excellent counselors in a variety of treatment settings.
Licensing and additional certifications are dependent upon the type of facility. Those wishing to go into private practice must be licensed by the state of their practice location. Licensing also allows counselors in treatment facilities to provide private counseling sessions. Qualifying for a counseling license requires a Master's degree in a related field, anywhere from 2,000 - 3,000 hours of supervised counseling experience in a clinical setting, and a passing score on a state exam. Some states may also require continued education in order to keep your license. The requirements for those who are not opening a private practice are a little less stringent, and vary by locality. Requirements for all levels of counseling certification, licensing and education for each state are available online.
Substance abuse counselors must have calm personalities. They should also be compassionate and have good communication skills to be able to work with people from all walks of life and every background. This is also a profession that requires an open mind, persistence and patience.
An example of a person who has used their own past to help other people overcome their addictions is inpatient rehabilitation center founder Per Wickstrom. Often compassionate people who have been through hardship themselves seek to try to help others who are walking the same path. This provides benefits to the people they counsel, including empathy, as well as an insider's knowledge of the mindset of an addict and the challenges they face in recovery. It's also easier for someone who's undergoing substance abuse treatment to open up fully to someone who has a personal understanding of addiction and recovery.