How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Georgia

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Addiction counselors will find themselves working with a variety of people, from teens whose experimenting went too far, to the suburban soccer mom or the business executive who are under stress in their personal or work lives. And the types of addictions also vary, from substances such as heroin and cocaine, prescription drugs, alcohol, food, and nicotine, among others. For those who want to help a certain group overcome their addictions, this is a good thing because these people can find a job in the area that most suits them.

Counseling and therapy aren’t quite the taboo that it once was, so more people are seeking help when they realize they are in over their heads. Because of this, the need for qualified counselors is high. If you have the desire to help people, then a career in addition counseling might be an option worth investigating.

An addiction counselor helps those who are on their journey to recovery navigate the path they need to take to return to a life that does not involve addiction. Counselors meet with individuals and groups and help facilitate communication that can lead to an understanding of how the addiction occurred and offer advice and guidance on how to avoid the issues that led to addiction and bad habits. Counselors might work independently or as part of a team lead by a licensed therapist. They also work for treatment facilities that offer both inpatient and outpatient therapy, hospitals, and other social service agencies that offer outreach to people in the local area.


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Addiction Counseling Education in Georgia


A college degree is not required to work as an addiction counselor in the state of Georgia. There, however, are training requirements, an application process, and an exam. The training can take the form of individual courses taken throughout a six-year period, and six hours of tele-counseling training is required. These workers must also work under the supervision of a licensed counselor, but for those who aren’t quite ready to take on a formal education, this is a good place to start. Exact details regarding how to start working as an addiction counselor in Georgia can be found on the Georgia Addiction Counselors Association website (gaca.org), however the general requirements are listed below:

Addiction is a problem throughout the United States, and Georgia is no exception. Stress from life, poverty, personal loss, and a host of other issues have driven people to find solace in drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy ways. When a person decides they want to live a life without an addiction, they often need help. This is where addiction counseling comes into play. These professionals are trained in helping people who are trying to overcome addiction to recover. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5,400 people employed as counselors in the state of Georgia and they earn an average salary of $46,000. And the demand for counselors is expected to increase at a high rate through 2028.

  • Minimum High School diploma or Equivalency (GED)
  • 2 years full-time or 4,000 hours active practice as a chemical dependency/abuse counselor in the past 5 years. Volunteer hours could be counted toward the requirement.
  • 180 contact hours of education and training in alcoholism and drug abuse or related counseling subjects including:

    • Six hours of ethics training
    • 18 hours of cultural diversity training
    • Three hours of HIV/AIDS education
    • A minimum of 100 contact hours within the past five years
    • A maximum of 90 hours may come from a college transcript
  • 220 hours of clinical supervision by a GACA CCS. A minimum 24 hours must include one-on-one supervision, and a minimum of two hours of individual supervision in each of the eight counselor skill groups.
  • Passing score on the NCC AP (national written exam) Level. This is taken after the application is approved by the committee.
  • Applicant must be cleared of all criminal charges/misdemeanors and/or felonies, and probation and/or parole requirements prior to applying for certification. All individuals who have a prior criminal record with felony convictions/charges will be required to submit a Criminal Background report to the Certification Committee.

    If an applicant is still on probation, the following must be provided for the two years prior to the application:

    • Evidence of no new charges
    • Evidence of compliance with all probation requirements and conditions

As noted above, to start working as an addiction counselor in Georgia does not require a degree, but those who want to progress to the level of counselor in mental health or other specialties will need to attain a degree. Also, those who wish to earn more, find employment more quickly, or have a better chance for promotion should certainly gain a degree.

Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

An associate degree in addiction counseling is a good idea for a person who is either new to the field or is looking to make the first step toward becoming an addiction counselor in Georgia. There isn’t an associate degree program specifically in addiction counseling in Georgia, but you could earn an associate degree in general psychology or counseling (or attend a program online from elsewhere) and, in general, those who seek this degree with study the following courses:

  • Assessment of Alcohol & Drug Addiction
  • Professional, Legal & Ethical Responsibilities for Alcohol & Drug Counselors
  • Introduction to Alcohol and Drug Counseling
  • Alcohol & Drug Counseling II
  • Treatment Planning & Relapse Prevention for Alcohol & Drug Addiction
  • Special Topics for Alcohol & Drug Counseling

Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling will include courses in psychology and sociology, as well as additional liberal arts classes. Students enrolled in addiction counseling programs will also take courses in chemistry and biology because a student should understand how drug addiction changes the chemical composition of a person’s brain.

Some classes in the curriculum might include:

  • Psychology
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Human Development

Clinical internships are also a requirement to completing a degree in addiction counseling. The internships can occur in a variety of different settings, from a treatment center to a hospital or under the guidance of a licensed counselor qualified to supervise interns. The internship might be in one specific area or a rotation type internship where the student gains experience in various types of addiction counseling settings.

Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS or MC)

People who pursue graduate degrees that work in addiction counseling get a masters in social work or psychology and specialize in addiction counseling. This gives them an education in the main focus of working with troubled people, but adds plenty of addiction counseling education as well. Along with courses in addiction counseling, students enrolled in graduate degree programs may also take the following courses:

  • Building Your Ideal Private Practice
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Psychopathology and Personality Disorders
  • Orientation to Addiction
  • Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling

Depending on work experience, students might be required to complete an internship. For those already working in the field, their current and previous work experience could count toward the required internship hours. This requirement varies by program.

PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Doctorate degrees in addiction counseling are generally part of a clinical PhD program. Classes taken will depend on which specialization the person chooses. Core classes include clinical psychology, behavioral science, human development, and abnormal psychology. From there a student would pick and choose classes that fit their desired area of study. A clinical as well as a dissertation are a requirement to complete the program. The internship has to include one-on-one counseling with patients under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Georgia


The process to become a Certified Addiction Counselor I (CACI) were outlined above, but for those who want to progress in their career, the Certified Addiction Counselor II (CACII) is the next step. The main requirements are detailed below, but all information, applications, and other information is available on the GACA website.

  • Must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. The degree must be from an accredited college or university and listed on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation web site (www.chea.org) or other reputable accreditation boards.
  • You must have a minimum of three years full-time or 6,000 hours active practice as a chemical dependency/abuse counselor in the past eight years. Volunteer counseling supervised by a GACA Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) may be accepted.
  • You should also have a minimum of 270 contact hours of education and training in alcoholism and drug abuse or related counseling subjects, and must include six hours of ethics training, 27 hours of cultural diversity training, and three hours of HIV/AIDS education. At least 160 contact hours had to occur within the past five years. A maximum of 135 hours may come from a college transcript.
  • 144 hours of clinical supervision should be from a GACA Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS). A minimum of 36 of these hours must be one-on-one supervision, with at least two hours of individual supervision in each counselor skill group.
  • Passing score on National Certification (Written) Examination for Addiction Counselors Level II.
  • An applicant must be cleared of all criminal charges, misdemeanors and/or felonies, and probation and/or parole requirements prior to applying for certification. Individuals who with a prior criminal record with felony convictions/charges will be required to submit a Criminal Background report to the Certification Committee.

    For applicants still on probation, the following must be provided for the period of two year prior:

    • Evidence of no new charges
    • Evidence of compliance with all probation requirements and conditions

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • School Counselor
    School counselors work within the school system to ensure students are safe and healthy. If a student is in distress, the counselor can assist the student with any particular issues they might be having.
  • Career Counselor
    For those who needs assistance making career decisions, a career counselor can help a person identify their strengths and weaknesses so that can choose a career that best suits them.
  • Child Counselor
    These counselors are specially trained to work with children. They have special tools and techniques that can help them identify emotional and /or behavioral issues in children.
  • College Counselor
    When a college student needs help choosing classes, majors or is ready to pursue a job after graduation, a college counselor can assist with these issues.
  • Military Counselor
    Military counselors are often current of former military service members who have been trained to assist with the special counseling needs of military personal, both serving and retired.
  • Group Counselor or Therapist
    Group counselors facilitate group therapy sessions for a variety of issues, from grief to drug and alcohol addiction.

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