What is Addiction Counseling?
Addiction counseling has unfortunately become a high-demand field in the state of Arkansas and elsewhere in the United States. The opioid epidemic has spread narcotic addiction from the inner city throughout the nation's suburban and rural communities. Wherever there is a pharmacy, there are now powerful opioid drugs. Addiction counseling degree programs in Arkansas have thus risen to meet the demand and to thus help fight back the rising tide of addiction and overdose.
While those who work toward degrees in clinical mental health counseling can have great success with a master’s degree, Arkansas offers another option. That is, those with a bachelor’s degree can work as addictions counselors. A four-year degree can help a student earn credentials such as that of a Licensed Associate Alcohol & Abuse Counselor (LAADAC). Once they complete a master’s degree with a counseling focus, however, professionals can hold licensure as Licensed Alcohol & Abuse Counselors (LADAC).
Some students will want to start their careers with a low-cost degree from a community college. While Arkansas' State Board of Examiners of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Counselors does not yet offer licensure to those with only an associate degree in addiction counseling, rehabilitation centers may have non-licensed positions available. Further, since the opioid epidemic has created such a huge demand for substance abuse counselors, the state may subsidize this associate degree. Even students who are interested in a bachelor’s degree should inquire about this option, as a community college education may cut the cost of their bachelor’s degree nearly in half. Keep in mind that, in order to receive discounted or free community college education, students may need to select a related STEM degree such as nursing or an allied health diploma.
No matter where substance abuse disorder counselors begin their career, they will want to eventually attain a master’s degree in counseling. Once they have completed all of the academic requirements for a MSW or a MA in counseling, students can attain licensure at the end of a supervised period of work. Once the state approves them to practice with a LADAC credential, they can work in private practice or with an organization, such as a rehabilitation facility.
Addiction Counseling Education in Arkansas
An addictions counselor is a mental health professional who works with individuals who suffer with substance abuse disorders. This specific segment of the mental health profession is somewhat unique in that they allow practitioners without a master’s degree to practice in most states. In fact, some states don't even require a bachelor’s degree. However, most do require special training. Arkansas is no exception and the state has two licensure levels.
The Arkansas Department of Health and their State Board of Examiners of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Counselors requires that licensure applicants have a minimum of a four-year bachelor’s degree. That undergraduate college degree will qualify an applicant for licensure as a Licensed Associate Alcohol & Abuse Counselor (LAADAC). Applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation, proof of at least six college credit hours spent studying ethics, passing scores on the SBEADAC examination, and a complete registration form.
Addiction counselors in Arkansas must start their careers with a bachelor’s degree that includes six credit hours related to ethics. Their other education should include 270 clock hours of what the Board terms as approved education. Approved education topics include the study of alcoholism and/or drug abuse counseling subjects, theory, practice, or research.
Students who wish to become licensed as a full alcohol & abuse counselor will need a master’s degree. They will likely pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology and then complete a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on addiction and alcoholism. These licensed professionals will also need to complete a period of supervised counseling work and have that time logged and signed off on by another licensed professional. Those who have this full state licensure can work as independent counselors in their own practice, if not in a rehabilitation facility.
Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)
A two-year associate degree in addictions counseling won't be enough to achieve a license from the Arkansas Department of Health and their State Board of Examiners of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Counselors. However, students who start their careers with an associate degree in counseling can likely get started with a non-licensed position as a social worker or an entry-level position with a rehabilitation clinic. In fact, this route may open up positions that most counseling students don't consider. That is to say, a two-year degree might enable a position in the business side of a rehabilitation facility. That experience and knowledge will only pay off in the long run.
A two-year degree in substance abuse counseling will provide the foundation necessary to complete a full four-year degree. Given that Arkansas is subsidizing community college degrees for high-demand fields, students may find that the state will fund these first two years of education. Students should consult their local Arkansas community college to discuss this possibility.
Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)
Arkansas allows chemical dependency counseling students to achieve licensure with a four-year bachelor’s degree in counseling or other qualifying degree. The state requires a baccalaureate degree that includes courses that relate to alcohol and drug abuse counseling, counseling theory, and research, among other topics. Many four-year psychology degrees cover these topics. Students who are working toward a four-year degree are urged to explore this option. Those who have a long-term goal of earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology may wish to earn licensure with their bachelor’s degree and gain valuable experience. Since counseling is a very demanding field, this option will provide the insight necessary to determine if a master’s degree in the field is truly desirable.
A bachelor’s degree is also a terrific idea in any case. Once armed with a bachelor’s degree, graduates have many more options available to them in the marketplace. Some decide that counseling is not for them, but they still have a diploma that most employers will respect and value.
Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS or MC)
When Arkansas counselors earn a master’s degree in counseling psychology, or even a master of social work, they qualify for a license that allows them far greater autonomy. Once a professional completes all of the requirements for licensure, including a period of supervised work, examination, and a background check (among other requirements) they can work as independent counselors. Frequently, these counselors will open up a private practice where they are able to develop a counseling practice that is unique to them. For instance, they might decide to focus on adolescents with substance abuse disorders, or they could build a practice that attempts to heal families stricken by the diseases of addiction and alcoholism.
Those who complete a master of social work can also find work with state agencies or non-profit organizations. While this opportunity is also available to those who stick with a more academic psychology degree, hiring managers for social work agencies tend to prefer candidates with an MSW.
PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)
The pinnacle degree for a counseling professional, or nearly any professional, is a PhD or doctorate. This degree is typically reserved for those who have pursued counseling psychology as opposed to social work. However, doctors of social work can still practice counseling.
Counselors who have earned a PhD typically gain more esteem in the counseling community. They may find it easier to publish papers or books, and they might even conduct lecture series that both satisfy their own continuing education requirements as well as helping their colleagues satisfy the Arkansas board.
Professionals with a doctorate in counseling can also diversify their workload by teaching at the college level. A PhD will enable them to teach students at the community college, university, or graduate level.
Finally, the licensure requirements for a counselor are much the same as for one with a master’s degree. In fact, many counselors practice for a few years with a master’s prior to returning to complete their doctoral work. Thus, their licensing is mostly covered, provided they continue to renew their licenses at the appropriate times.
Top College Programs in Arkansas for Counseling
- Harding University
- Arkansas State University
- Henderson State University
- University of Arkansas
Become an Addiction Counselor in Arkansas
Arkansas residents who desire a career in addiction counseling are advised to start their careers at the beginning. The most important first step towards becoming a counselor is to decide that the career is what they truly desire. Many addiction counselors are inspired to pursue the profession when they successfully complete the recovery process. Once recovered, many decide to turn around and help those who are still suffering.
On the other hand, there are those who have been touched by addiction in other ways. They may have lost a friend or loved one to addiction and have thus been inspired to work in the field. Still others find that the field is intriguing from a more intellectual and academic angle, or they may approach it from a public health and big-picture perspective. The motivations for entering the field are varied and all depend on the individual. What matters most is to have a passion for the field and a true desire to help addicts and alcoholics recover.
Prospective students can start their academic career by first pursuing an associate degree in psychology, social work, or counseling. This degree won't qualify them for a license in Arkansas, but it’s still a low-cost way to get started. The degree may even be free, if not available for low cost as a result of Arkansas' state educational subsidies. Upon graduation, rehabilitation facilities may even hire them as technicians or in other non-counseling positions. This experience can be invaluable for years to come, as those who enter the addiction counseling profession with a master’s degree may be unaware of many things that impact their clients.
An addiction counselor's career really gets rolling when they complete a bachelor’s degree program. Once armed with a full four-year degree, counselors can earn an Arkansas license to practice as associate counseling professionals. In Arkansas, a bachelor’s degree helps counselors qualify for their Licensed Associate Alcohol & Abuse Counselor (LAADAC).
From this point, counseling professionals can opt for a master’s degree in addiction counseling. This master’s degree can be either in counseling psychology or social work. More likely, counseling students will opt for a program of a more general nature and then use their elective courses to concentrate on the problem of addiction. The Arkansas board may bestow a state licensure on those with a master’s degree. The board also offers these candidates the Licensed Alcohol & Abuse Counselor (LADAC) credential. This license must be renewed and maintained by way of continuing education and submitting the appropriate paperwork in a timely fashion.
Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates
- School Counselor:
This is a popular choice for those who love working with kids but don't really want to work in a classroom setting. This field requires a master’s degree, often in education, and credentials from the Arkansas Department of Education. Thus, this is a field that may be difficult for a non-MEd professional to achieve. Nonetheless, counselors who are licensed at the master’s degree level may still work with young kids but on a private, after-school basis.
- Clinical Social Worker:
This is a terrific option for many aspiring counseling professionals. This is because a clinical social worker is trained both in counseling as well as other aspects of social work. These professionals who complete an MSW program and then become licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) have more career options. They can work in private practice and then transition to work with a state agency of a non-profit as they see fit.
- Adult and Geriatric Counselor:
These counselors start their careers with a master’s degree in counseling psychology and become licensed by the Arkansas board. They might also focus on addictions issues among their chosen population. Sometimes these counselors work in long-term care facilities, but they may also pursue a career in private practice, if not some mixture of the two.
- Sports Psychologist:
Athletes at all levels seek to address certain mental blocks that hold them back from optimizing their performance. These psychological professionals work with athletes from youth leagues through to the majors. In fact, many top teams and sports heroes have been known to contract with sports psychologists in order to gain a competitive edge.
- Career Counselor:
This profession often requires a master’s degree but is typically not a licensed position. Career counselors work in colleges and universities to help students choose the right major. They can also help students recognize the strengths and weaknesses in their personalities vis-a-vis various career options.
- Child Counselor:
Children who have experienced trauma and abuse are often the primary clientele for a child counselor. However, these professionals may also make educational or intelligence testing a part of their practice. Depending on the age group these professionals choose, they might conduct art or play therapy with their clients. It may even be important to conduct sessions with the parents or family present.