By Rachel Oda
Addiction is one of the hardest things a person may have to overcome. Because of this, the specialization of addiction therapists are needed desperately. The road to becoming an addiction therapist varies depending on what exactly a person wants to do.
Education: Some positions in addiction therapy, which is also known as a substance abuse counselor (many would generally categorize the occupation as “social work”), only require some training classes programs and internships at online or community college classes or an Associate’s Degree. Other positions, may include intensive medical training, management experience, extensive intern and volunteer experience and a Bachelor’s or even Master’s Degree in a specialized area of study. There are also State licensing requirements for some positions.
Well-rounded Background: Regardless of the specific role in addiction therapy, a substance abuse counselor needs to have a well-rounded educational background, as the field combines pharmaceutical knowledge with more general medical and health knowledge, as well as psychology, neurology and sociology. With the amount of data available today, including documented personal health history as well as pharmacological resources, familiarity with technology and information database systems is extremely valuable as well.
Settings & Hours: Addiction therapists work in a wide variety of settings, which include hospitals, mental health clinics and in, as well as out-patient care facilities. The wide range of settings matches the hours, which can be diverse, ranging from the standard work week (Monday through Friday, 9-5) to flexible work arrangements, such as three twelve-hour shifts/week. Diversity is one of the benefits of the job as there is a schedule and a position for virtually any interest.
Job Outlook: Unfortunately, addiction is as prevalent today as it has ever been (some contend that it is greater than ever, though the scientific data does not exist to support this claim). Whether the rate of addiction is climbing or not, the numbers are as the human population continues to grow. In fact, the United States’ Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for community and social service workers to grow by 25% over the decade from 2010 to 2020, an increase of approximately 161,000 jobs.
Financial Compensation: While compensation is certainly not the focal point of a career as an addiction therapist, at an average annual salary of approximately $42,000, it isn’t a detractor. While the cost of schooling may be high in order to achieve salaries in excess of this level, there are numerous grants and scholarships available to those with the interest and aptitude.
Emotional Compensation: While most jobs pay only financial compensation, an addiction therapist is paid an emotional salary as well. It is impossible to measure the value of helping someone make a life-saving change; suffice it to say, the emotional return is extreme. Few other roles allow for the emotional investment and the emotional return of an addiction therapist.
Rachel Oda is a blogger for several publishers (including www.therapistschools.com). A trained therapist herself, she largely spends her time counseling others on the types of therapy careers available, and the technical requirements necessary to practice.