To become certified to work in the field of addictions in the United States, a person has to have a lot of experience in this area and a passion for it. Nothing less would get a candidate through the rigorous requirements to become even a certified specialist, not to mention a counselor or a certified addiction professional.

Differences Between Specialists, Counselors, and Professionals

Many of the same duties, studies, and experience are a part of all three professional disciplines. State regulations might differ throughout the country, but here is a framework which indicates, in general, what is expected of service providers.

The first category is a less intense version of the second. Counselors do the same things as specialists, but they have to spend more hours in training to gain their counseling certification. They become more clinically involved with clients. Also, to become a specialist, one does not need prior academic training. A counselor, however, must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for programs.

As for professionals, they are at the top of their profession. They do all of the above and more. They gain even more hours of experience in certain areas than either specialists or counselors. To become a certified addiction professional, one must also have a BA in a related area or a Masters Degree if it is not related to counseling and addiction treatment. These, at least, suggest that a person is highly organized, can conduct research, and is able to assimilate new information easily.

Specifics of Training

Training is broken up into various categories including:

• Planning treatment options
• Evaluating the success of certain approaches
• Documenting
• The ethics of addiction treatment
• Counseling addicted individuals

This is just the start and does not even begin to describe what is involved in those many hours of experiential training. Besides helping individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, professionals in this field must also learn how to recognize and assist clients who are suffering from domestic violence, have HIV/Aids, how to appropriately refer clients with more complicated issues than substance abuse, and more. Many clients will have mental illnesses or be undergoing therapy to avoid jail time following criminal activity in which drugs were a component.

Much of the knowledge a professional will learn could be deemed theoretical. In this case, he must learn how to put it to good use. During training, he will do exactly that: take what he knows and apply it to real people in real situations. His experiences might not always be positive, but this is a learning time when mistakes are made. Students can be thankful that they are supervised during many educational components for the safety of clients and students alike.

And who does the supervising?

That is the role of an addiction professional. Once certified, the professional will offer supervision to candidates for specialist and counseling programs, as well as to future addiction professionals like themselves.

Why is certification important?

When someone is addicted to a substance such as heroin, methamphetamine, or prescription drugs, it can feel to their loved ones like they will never admit they have a problem. If a miracle occurs and they do see they are in trouble which is negatively impacting others around them, then there might be just one chance. This single, narrow window of opportunity might be the only opportunity to get a spouse, parent, or sibling into rehab.

What if that rehab clinic is not well organized? What if the staff does not know what they are doing?

If the treatment is not well chosen or is unlikely to address the specific problems of clients, money, time, and opportunity are wasted. The addict might never be persuaded to try again owing to a bad experience in rehab.

Moreover, lives and clients’ mental health are at stake. Counselors have to get their approach just right. Detox must be supervised, so staffing has to be carefully planned to provide 24/7 support.

Safety measures must be in place. Intake will be organized and it is up to trained employees to know who should join rehab. Not every applicant is suitable for rehab or for a particular center.

Perhaps she has already gone through a couple of programs and refuses to get healthy. Maybe she feels uncomfortable with people who are vastly older or younger than herself.

Group sessions should be organized so that no one feels as though she does not belong and no one causes others to be uncomfortable about sharing. For instance, veterans often prefer to engage with other veterans during peer support sessions.

How to Choose the Right Treatment Center for Yourself or a Loved One

One of the most important questions you can ask about a center is whether or not it has been through an accreditation process. During this phase in their existence, staff members will have been vetted for their suitability and training for the job. The effectiveness will be assessed as well, as indicated in their methods of documentation, treatment plans, and other tools.

Ask a center directly: are you accredited? If so, with whom are you accredited? Do you employ certified addiction specialists and counselors? Is your center run by an addiction professional?

You have the right to know the answers to these questions. Many will be answered online when you visit various addiction clinic sites. Others might not be apparent at first glance. You will be interested in the types of therapies that are available (equine, arts, yoga, Reiki), but certification should not be overlooked.

It is important that counselors and other staff members are trained specifically in addiction treatment. They might have other interests such as post partum support or CBT, but certification in addictions is a must. This matters because, considering the hours of training required, certification clearly points to a passion for this line of work.

Also, it indicates that the individual has received the training he needs to understand the nature of addiction: what it is and what it is not. Training enables him to approach various subjects properly and in healing ways which have been proven to yield fruit.