How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Maryland

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Maryland is a vital part of the East Coast. It’s home to a significant part of the Washington D.C. metro area, Baltimore, and a beautiful countryside. Unfortunately, the state is also experiencing troubles related to the national opioid epidemic. This epidemic was created when certain pharmaceutical companies encouraged the over-prescription of many highly addictive opioid pain medications. Since these drugs were distributed from pharmacies all over the country, suddenly opioid overdoses spilled over urban boundaries and into Maryland's provincial countryside.

To address the problem, the Maryland Department of Health began to license more and more addiction counseling professionals. They’ve instituted a system whereby those with an associate degree could become licensed and help those who suffer with substance abuse disorder. They also have licenses for those with bachelor’s counseling degrees to help clients who are fighting to get their lives in order. For those who wish to work in the field but haven't completed their coursework, or who are not certain that the field is for them, Maryland offers them the option to become alcohol and drug trainees who hold state credentials that may help with later licensure. Trainees can hold their credentials for only two years.

Maryland's higher educational institutions have also stepped up to help train professionals to help fight in the struggle against drug and alcohol addiction. Students can start with associate degrees in health and human services counseling from a local or online community college. Maryland's public community colleges have the required accreditation and degree programs crafted to facilitate state licensure.


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Addiction Counseling Education in Maryland


Given that community colleges are all over Maryland, an associate degree is a fantastic way to start a career in addiction counseling. Some students can earn a degree in health and human services counseling in their hometown. Others may opt for an online program or a bachelor’s addiction counseling degree from a four-year college or university.

Maryland's four-year colleges and universities have recruited the very best addiction counseling faculties from both in-state and the wider nation. They recognize that their educational institution can play a vital role in fighting the social problems facing their state. Thus, they strive to recruit balanced faculties that are full of experienced counseling professionals and top researchers in the field of addictions.

An addiction counselor is a mental healthcare professional who works to help individuals who suffer from a substance abuse disorder. These professionals work at a variety of licensure levels, starting with addiction counselors who have completed an associate degree. There are two more levels of licensure in Maryland for professionals with a bachelor’s degree and graduate degree holders.

Addiction counselors with an associate or bachelor’s degree in addictions counseling may work in drug and alcohol treatment facilities as staff members. Their work may involve educating clients to the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse or facilitating a variety of therapeutic activities. However, counselors at this level are not licensed to work one-on-one with patients. To work one-on-one with patients, addiction counselors must have a graduate degree and full licensure from the Maryland Department of Health. Counselors at this higher licensure level may also open private practices where they work with clients who suffer from substance abuse disorder.

In Maryland, any addiction counseling degree level will allow the holder to become an addiction counseling professional. This allows the state to respond to the overwhelming demand to treat substance abuse disorder in the state. Note that, for each degree and licensure level, the state has other requirements including a background check, satisfactory examination scores, and letters of reference. The state may also require that addiction counseling professionals complete a period of supervised practice. This is particularly necessary for those who are seeking to become Licensed Graduate Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LGADC).

Students should note that, for their associate and bachelor’s level licensure, the state does not have strict major degree requirements. The board may prefer a degree in health and human services, but students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields may also apply. The board is looking for degrees that they deem substantially equivalent, as well as specific coursework and an internship.

Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

A two-year associate degree in addiction counseling is enough to start a career in addiction counseling. Many of Maryland's community colleges are fully accredited, and the Maryland Department of Health will accept their degrees as part of an application for licensure. While the state's documents make specific mention of a degree in health and human services, an associate addiction counseling degree will often suffice.

The state is looking for specific coursework as well as an internship. Students should discuss this with their academic adviser in the addiction counseling degree program. The adviser should be up to date with the MDH's specific requirements. Associate addiction counseling degree programs are typically very helpful when it comes to landing an internship. After all, they want to see their students succeed and go forward to help others.

Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

Starting an addiction counseling career with a bachelor’s addiction counseling degree is a superb idea. Employers in nearly every field prefer to hire candidates who hold bachelor’s degrees. The Maryland Department of Health also rewards bachelor’s degree holders with the ability to become licensed to work with patients who suffer from a substance abuse disorder. At the bachelor’s degree level, professionals may earn credentials as a certified associate counselor – alcohol and drug (CAC-AD).

While the MDH specifically references bachelor’s degrees in health and human services counseling, they also will accept a degree in a field that is substantially equivalent. Thus, the MDH may accept a bachelor’s addiction counseling degree from a fully accredited program, assuming students complete specific courses, including an internship. Students should consult with their department advisers to ensure that they are able to meet all of the MDH's requirements for licensure.

Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

Students who go the extra mile and complete a master’s addiction counseling degree have many more options available for their career path. Once they complete their master's counseling degree and complete Maryland's licensure requirements, they will see much more freedom in how they practice counseling.

With a master's-level license in Maryland, counselors can conduct one-on-one therapy sessions with their clients. Thus, they will have a special status if they work in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic. With a master's-level Maryland license, they can also open an independent counseling practice where they specialize in working with clients who are trying to attain sobriety.

Those with a master's degree can also consider teaching future counselors. This is the minimum degree level for teaching college, and those who have spent a number of years accruing experience will find that it pays off in the classroom. Licensed counselors can also help their students make a smooth transition into licensure.

PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

A PhD or doctorate degree in counseling won't result in a higher licensure level, but it will pay off in terms of status in the counseling community. Counselors who hold a PhD can leverage their status when it comes to rising up in the administration of a rehabilitation clinic. They might also use their credentials to open a counseling practice or even their own rehabilitation center.

A PhD also enables counselors to charge more in private practice. Those who work for rehabilitation centers should also see a pay raise relative to those with a master's degree. Doctorate level counselors can also find opportunities in academia.

While counselors can teach college with a master's counseling degree, a PhD carries more weight. With this degree, counselors are more likely to be hired and they will be eligible for full-time, tenure-track positions. Given the rising demand for addiction counseling professionals, PhDs may find that they are in high demand.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Maryland


Marylanders who wish to become addiction counselors have many routes available to them. The quickest and easiest way to become involved in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry is by earning an associate addiction counseling degree from a Maryland community college. The Maryland Department of Health recommends that students complete a degree in a health and human services field. However, the Board will also accept a degree in a closely related field. Students who have completed an addiction counseling degree, for instance, are sure to have an easy time. Those who earned a psychology degree may also apply but more coursework, including an internship, may be required.

The Maryland Department of Health also licenses those who have completed a bachelor’s addiction counseling degree program. For this licensure level, the Board also mentions a preference for a health and human services counseling program, but they also consider affiliated degrees. However, it's important for aspiring counselors to check with the state licensing board to ensure that they take all the necessary courses. Along the way, it will be enormously helpful to complete at least one internship in a substance abuse rehabilitation facility.

After graduation from either an associate or bachelor’s counseling degree program, students who are either still in need of courses, or who are not yet sure of the profession, have a choice. Maryland offers a recognized status as an alcohol and drug trainee (ADT). To qualify, candidates need to have the endorsement of a licensed, board-approved supervisor.

While the ADT credentials only last two years, this should afford students ample time to decide on whether this is the field for them. Students are encouraged to ask questions of their supervisor and others in their workplace or educational institution. They may discover that they really want to move forward with a graduate counseling degree.

For those who complete a master's addiction counseling degree, their careers are virtually ensured. That is, Maryland and the nation at large is undergoing a massive addiction epidemic, so work should be easy to find for many years. Those with a master's degree can also decide whether to work for a drug treatment facility or in private practice, if not some blend of the two. They can also choose to teach college courses either online or through a local college or university.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • School Counselor:
    These mental healthcare professionals also hold a teaching certificate with Maryland board of education. Their work is primarily bound to a school and thus they enjoy the summer and winter breaks afforded to all education professionals. The job is to essentially help students overcome the social and personal issues that distract them from their studies and help those who may experience learning difficulties.
  • Clinical Social Worker:
    These mental healthcare professionals have completed a master of social work degree and have satisfied the Maryland Board's requirements for licensed counselors. Licensing typically involves a period of supervised practice, satisfactory test scores, a background check, and letters of reference. Clinical social workers can be found working for substance abuse rehabilitation centers, general mental health facilities, or in private practice. Clinical social workers must also maintain their state licenses through continuing education courses.
  • Organizational Counselor:
    These psychological professionals are a bit different from the others in that they work with large groups of people rather than individuals. Organizational counseling involves helping team members and corporate employees attain maximum efficiency in the workplace. Often, the goals of traditional and organizational counseling overlap, since happy and well-adjusted workers are also efficient.
  • Adult and Geriatric Counselor:
    As adults age, they face new challenges that are specific to their particular stage of development. They may be concerned about their role as parent, employee, boss, or even grandparent. Further, issues related to mortality are a common issue. Counselors who work with this population have done research into this age group and are specifically well equipped to counsel them.
  • Sports Psychologist:
    This profession is well known for helping professional athletes achieve maximum success. They work with athletes who may have psychological issues that overcome their physical abilities. At times, athletes may see their on-field performance hindered by matters in their personal lives. It's worth noting that many who hold degrees in sports psychology work as coaches or may own training facilities for budding athletes.
  • Career Counselor:
    These counseling professionals are not licensed to help people work through personal traumas or other problems. Rather, they hold graduate degrees in career counseling, which help them guide undergraduate students through a bachelor’s degree program and then into the working world. Career counselors also help arrange campus events such as career fairs where students can meet recruiters from local and national firms.
  • Genetic Counselor:
    For couples who are interested in having children, a genetic counselor can be immensely helpful. Unlike other counselors, genetic counseling professionals don't have degrees in psychology or counseling, though they may deal with patients who have extreme emotional responses to their genetic history and chance of passing genetic illnesses to their children. Rather, they are experts at genetics and can thus assess a couple's genetic history of disease or other traits. With the help of a genetic counselor, couples can assess the risk involved with pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Grief Counselor:
    After losing a loved one, people go through grief at their own pace. For some, this may take weeks, but for others the grief period is ongoing. Grief counselors are there to help people overcome their grief while not forgetting their loved ones. Many clinical mental health counselors study grief counseling to help their clients who experience a loss, while others make this specialty the focus of their counseling practice.

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