How to Become an Addiction Counselor in New Mexico

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Addiction is a scourge that can affect anyone. Regardless of gender, race, orientation, socioeconomic status, or political leaning - anyone can find themselves in the throes of an addiction. Maybe it’s having too much to drink, popping pills to deal with the pain, or participating in activities that could result in injury or death. If these things are needed so one can function, it can be considered a form of an addiction. Eventually, they may begin to realize that these activities are not only not enhancing their lives but are actually causing harm to themselves and to others. At this point, many people decide it’s time to stop and try to create a life where these harmful activities aren’t necessary. This is when they start to seek help.

An addiction counselor helps people who want to overcome their addictions to drugs, alcohol, and other vices or harmful behaviors. Counselors can find work in rehabilitation centers, hospitals, clinics, or private practice. They can also offer group, individual, and family counseling and work with people of all ages. Counselors are trained to assist the person in recovery by working through their issues and finding more positive coping techniques and better support structures so that the pressure to return to their vice is minimized as much as possible.

This is where addiction counselors come on the scene. Even the most strong-headed person often needs help to move past addictive behavior and the expertise of an addiction counselor can be helpful. These professionals know what tools to offer a person in recovery to help them learn how to deal with the stress and or trauma that might have led to their addiction issues. In the state of New Mexico, there are several thousand people who work as counselors, many of whom choose to work with those struggling with addiction. Specialization options include working with males or females, adults, teens or children, veterans, the homeless, and other specific groups.


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Online Addiction Counseling Education in New Mexico


Although people tend to have a specific kind of person in mind when they think of an “addict”, addiction can strike a person living on the street or living in a mansion. People of all walks of life can need help and addiction counselors are there to help them. If this sounds like something you might want to become a part of, keep reading. There is some important information regarding how to become a counselor including educational requirements, types of work available, other counseling fields you might consider, and licensing requirements.

To work as an addiction counselor in the state of New Mexico, one must have, at a minimum, an associate degree. Your degree level will determine how much supervised work is required to sit for the licensure exams. There are two different licenses you can attain in substance abuse counseling in the state: Licensed Substance Abuse Associate and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor. Below are the degree levels a person can pursue to qualify for a license as a counselor.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

An associates in addiction counseling is not a standalone degree; courses that cover addiction are included in associate programs in psychology, sociology, and some other healthcare majors.

Some of the required classes include:

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

These degrees take around two years to complete and are available in online and on-campus options. You can also apply for financial aid, and the completed degree can be transferred into a bachelor’s degree program to account for around half the credit hours you need to complete a bachelor’s. If you are considering saving money by earning an associate degree and transferring into a four-year program, make sure you check if your four-year program of choice will accept transfer credits from your two-year program. Some institutions have agreements that allow easy transfer, and some credit transfers are more difficult. Looking into the issue before beginning your first degree will make you life easier in the long run.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s in addiction counseling will include psychology and sociology classes, as well as other liberal arts courses to cover your general education, such as chemistry and biology. (Your general education courses may be covered by your associate degree if you earned this first, so make sure you consider that.) These degrees are often well-rounded programs created so that the ‘student comprehends how drug addiction affects people not only emotionally or physically, but also changes the chemical composition of a person’s brain.’ That means you have to comprehend your general science courses and complete supplementary courses, such as Pharmacology and Physiology of Addiction.

Some classes in the curriculum might include:

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

At least one internship, depending on your area of study, may be required for successful completion of a program. Internships can take place in a hospital setting or under the guidance of a licensed therapist. Many students turn an internship into a paying position once they graduate. This can also count toward the supervised work requirements needed for licensure. You will also need less hours with a bachelor's degree than with an associate degree.

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

Graduate degrees in either social work or psychology are the more common graduate programs for substance abuse counseling as addiction counseling is a component of both programs. Along with courses in addiction counseling, students enrolled in master degree programs may also take the following courses.

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

Students who are not currently working in the field will be required to complete an internship, either through a healthcare system, an organization, or an individual counselor in private practice who can provide mentorship during the training period.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Doctorate degrees in addiction counseling are generally part of a clinical PhD program. This aspect of the degree varies depending on the area where the person wants to practice. Classes such as clinical psychology, behavioral science, human development, and abnormal psychology may be part of the curriculum, though they will be taught in much more depth than they were in your undergraduate or master’s programs.

Those who graduate with doctorates can work as counselors or they could teach at a college or university and apply for tenured positions. Depending on the candidate’s work history, a clinical might be required to meet either degree or dissertation requirements. This clinical internship has to be completed under the supervision of a licensed supervisor and involve face-to-face counseling training with patients.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in New Mexico


There are two licenses a person can attain in the state of New Mexico: Licensed Substance Abuse Associate and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor. The requirements for each are outlined below.

  • Licensed Substance Abuse Associate
    Requirements:

    • A minimum of an associate degree in counseling, addiction, or a counseling-related field. Related degrees such as art therapy, agency counseling, clinical psychology, guidance counseling, human and family studies, mental health or community counseling, psychology, and social work also qualify.
    • 90 clock hours of education in alcohol and/or drug abuse. The education can be formal, informal, seminars, or in-service training.
    • Supervision while working must be provided by a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor with a minimum of three years of clinical experience. Other mental health professionals can also provide supervision if they have experience in drug and alcohol counseling. The supervisor will verify supervision and report if the person’s performance was worthy of licensure.
  • Licensed Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor
    This license is a higher level than that of the associate license. Requirements include:

    • 276 hours of coursework in content. Ninety hours are required in each of the following areas:

      • Counseling
      • Alcohol abuse
      • Drug abuse
      • 6 hours in ethics - Coursework in ethics must be directly related to alcohol and drug counseling and must have occurred within two years of the application process.
    • Candidates must fulfill a supervised practice requirement. The amount of supervision depends on the degree level of the person.

      • Associate degree holders must complete three years and no less than 3,000 hours of supervised practice – 200 of those hours must be face-to-face supervision
      • Bachelor degree holders must work under supervision for two years, accrue 2,000 client contact hours, and complete a minimum of 100 hours of face-to-face supervision
      • Graduate degree holders must complete a year of supervision, 1,000 hours of client contact hours, and 50 hours of face-to-face supervision
      • Candidates must also pass the Level 1 NCAC examination

    Generally, a candidate will attain their associate license and then work toward their counselor license, but this is not a requirement. You can work and achieve the requirements for the counseling license without attaining the associate license, especially if you intend to pursue a graduate degree.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


There are many careers a person who is trained as a counselor can pursue. Below are several options for a person who wants to work in counseling or social services.

  • School Counselor:
    School counselors work with students of all ages to assist them with academic and personal issues. They work in schools, colleges, and social service agencies that focus on students. Some school counselors primarily assist with choosing the right school or major for a student, while others might help people determine the right career for a student about to either enter or finish college.
  • Clinical Social Worker:
    Social workers are the bedrock of counseling. They are often the first to identify issues and determine where a person should be placed to seek help. Social workers don't just work with children, they work with people of all ages and strive to help the world be a better place overall. Some social workers also double as counselors.
  • Group Counselor or Therapist:
    A group counselor is a therapist that works mainly with groups. Although some people prefer one on one counseling, there are times when a group setting is the better approach. For example, many 12- step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Al-Anon are based on a group therapy concept. Group counselors are specially trained to work with groups in this type of setting, acting more as a facilitator than a therapist.
  • Grief Counselor:
    Grief counselors work with anyone who is attempting to cope with a loss. Some grief counselors specialize and work with widows and widowers, children who have lost parents, or people who have lost friends and family members to violence. Others choose to assist anyone who is grieving and who needs help navigating the grieving process. Grief counselors can work with people in both an individual and group setting. They are often hired by organizations that offer social outreach to a community, but they can also be in private practice.
  • Military Counselor:
    Military counselors work with members of the Armed Forces. They might work on a base and work with active-duty personnel, or they might work outside of the military helping newly retired service personnel. They can assist with readjustment to civilian life and assist with finding civilian employment.
  • Residential Counselor:
    These counselors work with people seeking treatment either in-house at a facility or as out-patients. They offer individual and group counseling on a variety of issues, from drug and alcohol abuse to broader mental health issues.
  • Organizational Counselor:
    Organizational counselors are professionals that work for an organization to assist its employees during a crisis or after a traumatic event. An example of an organization counselor is the person a police officer is required to speak with after being involved in a job-related shooting. Military personnel who are deployed also have organizational counselors available to them. These professionals help people cope with and work through a situation that might cause emotional trauma if not addressed. They also report to the person’s supervisors as to whether they are stable enough to continue in their current capacity.

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