How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Montana

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Montana is Big Sky Country. Because of its vast forests and relatively sparse population, it’s still considered a bit of a wild frontier. The biggest industries in Montana are mining, forestry, and the oil and gas industry. This leads to a lot of workers who work hard and, when they get the chance, play hard. And this entertainment may include imbibing in alcohol and even recreational drugs. This could lead to some issues for people, and they might find they need assistance.

This is where addiction counselors came in. These professionals are trained to assist people with the addiction problems so that they can live a life without being dependent on a substance. Counselors can work in a variety of areas and with a variety of people, from children and teens to veterans or soccer moms. No one is immune to addiction and, therefore, there need to be counselors who are trained to help anyone who needs it. If you are interested in entering this field so that you can help people in need, you will find information about the process here.

Addiction counselors work with groups and individuals who are in treatment for alcohol drug and other addictions. They provide group and individual counseling in a clinical setting. Some counselors work in recovery centers, while others might work for a social service agency or neighborhood advocacy program. They typically choose a niche and work within it, and they may also choose to focus on one age group or particular demographic. For example, a counselor who served in the military might opt to focus on providing assistance to other military members or veterans. Addiction counselors are trained to recognize the signs of an addict and they learn the techniques to provide proper treatment to the people they counsel.


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Online Addiction Counseling Education in Montana


This process might seem daunting because, not only do you need some form of a formal education, but you also must be licensed. But, for people who want to become addiction counselors, the process is usually relatively simple. You just have to get started. This guide was created to help with that. From the education needed to the process of attaining a license, you’ll get an idea of whether or not this is a path that is right for you.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

In the state of Montana, an online associate degree program can qualify a person to become an addiction counselor. Addiction counseling and drug and alcohol prevention programs can be used to seek licensure.

In an associate degree program, students will study subjects such as the following:

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

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

Those who pursue an online bachelors in addiction counseling will study sociology, psychology, and other liberal arts classes. Students will also study chemistry and biology, because this adds vital information about how drug addiction could change the chemical composition of a person's brain.

Classes in an addiction counseling program could include the following:

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

Students may also have to complete a critical internship in their desired area of study. The internship can take place in any type of facility provided they are approved to provide training for interns. This means a licensed therapist must be involved in the training process.

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

The most common online master’s degrees in substance abuse counseling for people who want to work as addiction counselors are social work and psychology degrees. Addiction counseling is a component of both of these programs, but there may also be a two-year certificate included in the curriculum.

Along with the courses in psychology and social work, students will also study the following:

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

Students who are not currently working in a counselor role will have to complete an internship. It can be completed through an organization, individual and private practice, or at a local healthcare facility. These programs typically take three to five years to complete. A capstone or a comprehensive examination might be required.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Addiction counseling is usually part of a clinical PhD program. Students will study classes such as abnormal psychology, human development, clinical psychology, and behavioral science. However, everything will be taught at a higher level than the courses you took in other undergraduate or graduate programs. A person with a doctorate and a license can offer internships to other students and will also qualify to teach at the university level. To complete these programs, a dissertation and its successful defense is required. You may also need to complete a clinical internship, depending on the program, and it must be completed under the supervision of a licensed supervisor and must include face to face counseling with patients.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Montana


To become an addiction counselor in Montana, there are specific steps that must be followed. Much of the process is comprised of attaining the required education and clinical requirements. These requirements are detailed below.

  • Option 1
    An Associate of Arts in alcohol or drug studies, addiction, or substance abuse from an accredited institution
  • Option 2
    An AA in another discipline along with:
    • Six hours in human behavior, sociology, psychology or a similar emphasis
    • Three credit hours in psychopathology or courses that explore abnormal or deviant behavior
    • Nine credit hours in counseling, six of which must be in group counseling and three in the theory of counseling
  • Option 3
    Bachelor’s or advanced degree in alcohol and drug studies, psychology, sociology, social work, or counseling
  • Option 4
    Bachelor’s or advanced degree not listed in Option 3 with:
    • Six hours in human behavior, sociology, psychology
    • Three credit hours in psychopathology or abnormal and deviant behavior
    • Nine credit hours in counseling, six in group and three in theory

Once a person has met the requirements above, they can apply to sit for the licensure exam. Once they take and pass the exam, they can apply for an addiction counselor license.

Prospective counselors also have to log a certain number of clinical hours while completing their education, and they often have to complete several clinical rotations.

Some of the criteria include:

  • 60 hours - chemical dependency assessment and patient placement (must include chemical dependency assessment, biopsychosocial testing, diagnosis, referrals, and patient placement)
  • 90 hours - counseling
  • 30 hours - pharmacology (must include drug classification, effects, detoxification, and withdrawal)
  • 10 hours - ethics
  • 30 hours - alcohol and drug studies
  • 30 hours - treatment planning and documentation
  • 20 hours - multicultural competency - knowledge of and sensitive to the cultural factors and needs of diverse populations and demonstrate competency in applying culturally relevant skills
  • 30 hours - co-occurring disorders
  • 30 hours gambling/gaming disorder assessment and counseling
  • Proof of completion of 1,000 hours of supervised addiction counseling experience in a qualified treatment program

To attain a license, a candidate must also complete the following:

  • Pass one of the following exams -applicants who are NOT licensed in another jurisdiction must have passed the exam within four years of the date of the application.

    • Option 1 – National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Certification Commission (NCC) Level 1 or Level 2 exam
    • Option 2 – Northwest Certified II exam
    • Option 3 – Southwest Certification II exam
    • Option 4 – International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) examination or Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) exam

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


As was mentioned previously, counselors are needed for a variety of people in a variety of settings. Below are some of the more common areas where addiction counselors might work.

  • School Counselor
    When a student starts to act out at school, they are often referred to the school counselor. These professionals are trained to help students identify issues and help them work through them. Once a counselor knows where the issues lie, they might refer the student and their family to other forms of counseling, such as family counseling.
  • Clinical Social Worker
    Not all social workers work as counselors, but that doesn’t mean their work isn’t important when it comes to addiction recovery. Social workers are often the ones who do the initial intake on a person to verify an addiction problem, then do the footwork to find the right treatment program for them. But some social workers are also counselors, and they might work for an agency or other social service organization.
  • Career Counselor
    A career counselor helps people who are seeking the right career for them or want to switch careers and need help narrowing down their options. Career counselors have tests and tools and know how to ask the right questions that will help a person figure out their options. Some career counselors work within a niche. For example, a career counselor might choose to work with newly separated service members who are looking for civilian work or they might work with older people looking to make a career change. Career counselors can also assist with identifying addiction issues and helping to find treatment options.
  • Adult/Geriatric Counselor
    An adult/geriatric counselor works with adults and the elderly to assess their needs and help them find solutions to any financial, emotional, or behavioral issues they may have. The counseling could be done on an individual basis or in a group. These professionals work at community centers, residential homes, rehabilitation centers, and geriatric residences.
  • Grief Counselor
    Grief counselors help people process and deal with their grief. The counseling sessions can be in a group or on an individual basis. These counselors help people process their grief in healthy ways so that the grief does not lead to other issues, such as substance abuse. Grief counselors work in hospitals, for funeral directors, and in other social service organizations that deal with death, dying, hospice, and other end-of-life issues.

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