What is Substance Abuse Counseling?
Nebraska, like so many states in the nation, has found that it is plagued with high rates of addiction and overdose. Starting with the opioid epidemic, which brought high powered opioid medications to pharmacies throughout the state, and now continuing with the introduction of fentanyl and increasingly potent methamphetamine, Nebraska is in need of help. To help allay the addiction problem, Nebraska is seeking to qualify and license as many addiction counseling professionals as necessary to fill available roles.
An addiction counselor is a mental health professional who works primarily, if not exclusively, with those who suffer with substance abuse disorder. The profession is dominated by professionals who hold a state license to work in the field. Most states provide licenses to workers who have as little as a high school diploma, though top credentials go to those with a master’s degree or greater.
On a day-to-day basis, addiction counselors work with clients who suffer from substance abuse disorder. Since most addiction counselors work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, professionals may spend time conducting educational sessions that discuss the pharmacology of various drugs or other issues such as relapse prevention. Unless they hold a master’s degree and a Nebraska state license to conduct therapy, addiction counselors cannot work independently. Once fully licensed, an addiction counselor can have their own private office and see clients on an individual basis.
Online Addiction Counseling Education in Nebraska
The state could seek to recruit addiction professionals from out of state, but it needs to cultivate its own addiction professionals. This is because there's no guarantee that recruiting efforts will pay off and because of the very nature of the disease of addiction. Addicts tend to respond strongly to those with whom they relate. That can mean they like to know counselors have similar life experiences to them. This can include having a Nebraska childhood that involved corn fields and pick-up trucks. A Nebraskan addict, for instance, might be reluctant to work with a counselor from New York City.
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Nebraska's colleges and universities thus seek to educate the local population with the best faculty possible. Those faculty members may be native Nebraskans, or they may have simply worked in the state for a number of years. That sort of local experience can help inform their practice. Knowledge of local rehabilitation centers or local laws governing drug possession, etc. may prove invaluable. Hopefully, Nebraska's efforts to curb the problem of addiction will prove fruitful.
The state of Nebraska confers licensure to drug and alcohol counselors based on their experience level. The state board requires six thousand hours of experience for all applicants. Those hours must be under the direct supervision of a licensed addiction counseling professional. During those hours, licensure candidates should work exclusively with patients who have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder such as alcohol or drug addiction. The state does make allowances for those with degrees.
For each degree level, the state board reduces the required number of hours. For an associate degree, the state takes off 1,000 hours. A bachelor’s degree in counseling, addictions, social work, or some other field directly related to counseling will count for 2,000 hours. A master’s degree in a related field will then count for 4,000 hours. Those who do not have a degree in a related field might appeal to the board to determine whether they can take additional courses and then reduce the experience requirement.
Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)
This online degree is a terrific way to kick off a career in addiction counseling. Nebraska community colleges that offer these degrees will be sure to help their students find a suitable internship or other learning experience. Upon graduating, students can seek an entry level position with an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility. An associate degree has other benefits, as well.
When a student completes an online associate addiction counseling degree, they not only take courses in addiction counseling, but they also complete the foundation of a bachelor’s degree. They must take all of the math, composition, science, and other courses that comprise the general education curriculum for most Nebraska four-year colleges and universities. Students with an associate degree can then enroll in their favorite four-year degree institution and then have only two years to go. Those two years can then focus on counseling without needing to complete any more core courses.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)
A four-year online undergraduate substance abuse counselor degree is a terrific way to start a career as an addiction counseling professional. Students who complete all four years of their bachelor’s degree will be very attractive candidates for jobs in Nebraska's drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Some bachelor’s degree students complete internships as part of their undergraduate degree, which can lead to a paid position. Naturally, the state board will require more experience before they confer a license, but a bachelor’s degree will count for 2,000 of the 6,000 total hours required for licensure.
A bachelor’s degree is also a great preparation for later studies. Many students who hold a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling apply to a master’s program for social work, clinical psychology, or addiction counseling. A bachelor’s degree also helps students accrue valuable experience that will help on a graduate school application.
Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)
Counseling careers most often take off with a master’s addiction counseling degree. This degree level enables students to conduct individual counseling or therapy sessions with substance abuse disorder patients and even their families. In order to work with substance abuse disorder clients, professionals have a few degree options. They can earn a master of social work, a master’s of clinical psychology, or a master’s addiction counseling degree.
The licensing body in Nebraska rewards those with a master’s degree by reducing their experience requirement by 4,000 hours. This leaves 2,000 hours of supervised hours that counselors must complete in order to be fully licensed addiction counselors in Nebraska. Upon completion, professionals can use their master’s counseling to earn a top position in a drug rehabilitation center. They might even be able to rise into the facility's administration or work as a supervisory capacity for addiction counselors who have an associate or bachelor’s level degree.
Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)
Though unusual, Nebraska addiction counseling professionals sometimes will earn a doctorate degree in addiction counseling. Most, however, will choose a PhD in clinical psychology that will enable them to work with a more broad range of clients, facilitate an independent counseling practice, and allow a higher pay rate. During the course of a doctorate degree, many aspiring counseling professionals will work as counselors using their master’s counseling degrees. This enables them to inform their practice with their doctoral research while bringing experiential learning to their research and coursework.
Those with a PhD or doctorate degree can often transition into other careers if they become weary of counseling. After all, counseling is a personally taxing endeavor that can take a toll on the toughest professional. PhD holders can use their status and expertise to work in a supervisory capacity or in administration for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. Others can use their PhD to enter academia as professors or research faculty.
Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Nebraska
These days, there is an increasing demand for addiction counselors in states across the nation. Even Nebraska, which is sparsely populated and without any major urban center, has fallen prey to the opioid epidemic. Where opioid problems used to be nearly exclusive to large cities like San Francisco or New York, the development of high-powered opioid pain killers brought addiction to any hamlet with a pharmacy. On top of that, methamphetamine is relatively easy, if dangerous, to make.
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People in Nebraska who are interested in becoming an addiction counseling professional can begin their journey with a degree. For those who don't yet have a post-secondary degree, a community college is a great place to start. Nebraska's community college system can confer an addiction counseling degree or a degree that the Nebraska licensing agency will allow for an addiction counseling license.
It should be noted that the Nebraska licensing board seems to base its licensing system more on earned experience than degrees. Their ultimate requirement for an addiction counseling license is a total of 6,000 hours of supervised work. During those hours, candidates should only work with clients who have been officially diagnosed with substance abuse disorder or the professional equivalent for addiction. Their supervisor also needs to be licensed by the state of Nebraska and practicing in good faith. A detailed log of all activities, which is signed off on by your licensed supervisor, will be needed when you apply for a Nebraska license.
The experience required by the Nebraska board can be mitigated by a degree. Those who apply with an associate addiction counseling degree can expect to reduce the requirement by 1,000 hours, leaving 5,000 total hours to satisfy the board. Bachelor’s degree holders can reduce the requirement by 2,000 hours, and a master’s degree can be used in lieu of 4,000 hours. Thus, the higher the degree one achieves will pay dividends in terms of attaining licensure in Nebraska.
At the end of the day, however, aspiring addiction counseling professionals should find ways to earn experience in the field prior to dedicating themselves to a master’s degree. This is because the field is intensely demanding. Counseling addicts can be personally precarious as the addicted mind can be very manipulative and wantonly destructive. Thus, the profession is not for everyone. Those who find that counseling addicts is not for them might still pursue work as an administrator in a drug rehabilitation facility or a PhD that focused on research into stemming the damage from addiction.
Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates
- School Counselor:
Students sometimes need someone to talk to about matters that are interfering with their studies. School counselors earn a teaching certificate and licensure from the state, as well as a master of education with a focus on counseling. Due to budget issues many school counselors service multiple schools.
- Social Worker:
This is one of the more flexible professions out there. A clinical social worker with a Nebraska license can work with clients on a one-on-one basis, but they can also work with a state or non-profit social services agency. To work as an independent counseling professional, social workers need to earn a master of social work and then must satisfy the Nebraska licensing agency.
- Organizational Counselor:
These psychology professionals work with businesses to help them better structure their operations. They may apply the relevant psychological literature to questions around how to build and design an office space. They can also help human resources professionals approach problems with utmost tact and professionalism.
- Adult and Geriatric Counselor:
Just as children need counseling to deal with issues pertinent to being kids, so do older people need counseling to deal with aging. This is a specialty area available to licensed counseling professionals who hold at least a master’s degree in clinical psychology.
- Sports Psychologist:
This is a great career for sports lovers who wish to discover what makes an athlete succeed or not. Sports psychologists may work with professional athletes as trainers who also offer more in-depth counseling to discover why mistakes were made, etc. Many who earn degrees in sports psychology work as professional coaches. Some operate special sports camps or might even work for a school system as a team coach.
- Career Counselor:
These counseling professionals don't dive deep into the psyche of others. Rather, they use their master’s degrees to help university students maximize their career potential. They may administer personality testing to help students discover what sort of profession will suit them best. They also work to organize job fairs throughout the school year.
- Child Counselor:
The early stages of development are crucial to long-term health, wellness, and success. Thus, this specialty counseling area is a draw for those who love children. A child counselor may use tools such as interactive play, art, or music to help children express themselves.
- Mental Health Counselor:
These are the professionals we most often think of when we think of a counselor. These workers hold master’s degrees in clinical psychology and work one-on-one with clients in therapy sessions. Some mental health counselors hold PhDs and are dubbed psychologists, who hold higher status in the field.