To be a successful drug & alcohol counselor, you must possess a great degree of empathy for those who you're trying to help. This is a job where you will be trying to save lives. The majority of people addicted to alcohol or drugs also have mental and behavioural problems which need to be addressed. This can often make effective treatment all the more difficult. The job can be very frustrating as many people who receive treatment eventually relapse. High caseloads are also common, particularily for counselors that work in government. Long work hours and relatively low pay help to further make career burnout a common problem. To do this job well, you have to love working with and helping people. You have to be willing to effectively communicate with people and work tirelessly on their behalf. As a result of your hard work, many patients will be able to reclaim their lives and finally overcome their addictions. While it can be a tough job, it can be a rewarding one as well.
The majority of drug and alcohol counselors have either a bachelor's or master's degree. Social work, sociology, or psychology are all common areas of study. Extensive volunteer work is common for those seeking careers as counselors. Many states require that a counselor either be licensed or certified. Certification typically involves completing an educational program followed by hundreds to thousands of hours of supervised work. As such, certification can take years to complete. Federal and state agencies often require certification, while private treatment facilities may not. Licensure is awarded by states to counselors who've completed advanced degrees. Usually, it is required that a licensed counselor have a master's degree in either social work or psychology.