How Do I Become an Addiction Therapist?

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  • Written By: T. M. Robertson
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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Addiction therapists are also often referred to as addiction counselors, or substance abuse counselors when drugs or alcohol are involved. The first step to becoming an addiction therapist is getting the right education. That will vary depending on the type of license or certification one would like to receive. After completing the educational requirements, clinical experience must be obtained. When the clinical experience is completed, the candidate will then be able to obtain his or her licensing or certification to officially become an addiction therapist.

In order to become an addiction therapist, proper educational requirements must first be met. Certification and licensing laws vary for each locality, so it's important to research a place's exact requirements. While a few localities only require a certificate or associate's degree for general licensing, many require at least a bachelor's degree. Common areas of study to become an addiction therapist include psychology, behavioral science, and related subjects. For advanced certifications, graduate degrees in fields such as clinical psychology or mental health counseling are often required.


As part of the educational curriculum, clinical internships are often provided to any student wishing to become an addiction therapist. During an internship, the student will be placed to work in a healthcare facility where he or she will work under licensed professionals. The length and exact number of hours required by these internships vary depending on particular laws and educational curriculum requirements for individual programs, but on average, they last upward of a year. The goal for the student is to qualify for a license by the time the degree and internship are completed.

After obtaining a college degree and completing the required clinical hours, students will need to pass an examination in order to obtain their license so they can practice on their own without supervision. Even after a license is obtained, many places require continuing education credits and workshops in order to maintain a license in good standing. For students who have earned graduate degrees, advanced certifications in specialized areas are available. For example, the Association for Addiction Professionals offers several different levels of certifications, with the most basic level requiring a license and upward of three years, or 6,000 hours, of substance abuse counseling experience. Other possible certification credentials include the National Certified Counselor (NCC) and the Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) provided by the National Board for Certified Counselors.


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