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A drug addiction counselor is a professional who helps people manage and treat addiction to drugs or alcohol. Most have studied extensively, passed exams and met licensing requirements in order to work in this difficult field. A drug addiction counselor can perform many jobs during the treatment of a patient; they frequently work with addicts at every stage, from deep in the clutches of drugs to those in recovery for years.
Many drug counselors have a master's or bachelor's degree in a related area from a university. Typically, they study psychology, sociology, public health, or medicine. Some regions also allow drug counselors to practice if they have completed a trade school or training course that specializes in addiction therapy. It is important to study the licensing and legal practice guidelines of a region carefully as they can vary extensively. Check with guidance counselors every semester or quarter to ensure that requirements are met and the right courses are taken.
Some of the work a drug addiction counselor does is analytical. They try to determine if an addiction is present and how best to treat the situation. A background in psychology can be extremely helpful to an addiction counselor, since people react to drug treatment in varying degrees. An addict who is still actively taking drugs may lie about use; drug addiction counselors must be adept in reading people and situations.
A drug addiction counselor may provide some form of therapy to addicts as well as friends and family. Addiction is a many headed beast that can cause depression, anxiety, and even new addictions not only in the primary patient but also in other family members. Counselors are skilled in seeing not only the forest but the trees; one goal of addiction treatment is to create a healthy living and social environment for the addict that will make relapse less likely.
Some drug addiction counselors work with drug treatment centers or rehabilitation centers. In this job, a counselor may have individual patients or may conduct group therapy sessions with recovering addicts. They often help addicts come up with goals and plans for the future in order to build a healthier lifestyle, post-rehab.
A drug addiction counselor may also work closely with the justice system in several capacities. They may be asked to assess a possible addict as part of a trial, or to be involved in treating addicts that must attend counseling due to a court order or sentence. Since these patients are not always willing participants, working in this arena is often considered extremely difficult.