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What is Substance Abuse Counseling?
In recent years, there has been an increase in community awareness of the need to focus on and improve mental health as a method of maintaining overall wellbeing. This has led to an increased demand for counselors and reduced stigma against speaking out about addiction issues. As such, addiction counseling has become more widespread and accepted within society, leading to further opportunities in the field for students who wish to pursue careers that focus on helping others by working in human services.
In general, counselors are professionals who acquire years of training to be prepared to help others dealing with mental and emotional distress. Addiction counselors are a particular subset of counselors who specifically help patients who find themselves overly reliant on external stimuli, specifically alcohol or drugs, to feel like they can continue functioning. In reality, addictions can be extremely debilitating and traumatic in the long term.
Overall, addiction counselors will need to be excellent listeners in their day-to-day work, as well as remaining empathetic and non-judgmental when working with clients who are trying to turn their lives around. Addiction counselors will need to ask good questions to understand any underlying drivers behind a client’s addiction, as well as to help them develop treatment plans and work through coping strategies to overcome their problems.
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Online Addiction Counseling Education in Oklahoma
Indeed, not only has seeking help for mental and addiction disorders become more widely acceptable, further studies have shown a variety of both predispositions and childhood factors that might contribute to issues in the area. In particular, trauma and factors outside of patients’ control have increasingly been linked to substance abuse disorders later in life. Therefore, pursuing a career as an addiction counselor, focusing on areas such as substance abuse counseling, school counseling, community counseling, and clinical mental health counseling can contribute strongly to reducing instances of addiction and substance abuse by helping patients tackle different problems that they struggle with.
There are several key industries in Oklahoma, which affects the state’s gross revenue and, therefore, can affect the likelihood that you will be able to find a job in the state. Oklahoma’s top business sector is mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction, which brings in $29.3 billion in annual revenue and is the second largest producer of this industry among all states in the US. The mining industry is very labor intensive and requires the usage of heavy machinery, which can sometimes be complex and even dangerous to use. Furthermore, workers in the mining and oil industries may spend large portions of their working days away from home, either mining in a less-explored locale or on an oil rig. They may experience loneliness and fatigue in ways that workers in other industries do not, which could contribute to addiction disorders.
Oklahoma’s second largest industry is real estate and rental and leasing, which accounts for $18.9 billion in revenue every year. In recent years, housing and affordable rentals have become an important community issue across the United States, including Oklahoma. Working in the real estate industry, which is both services- and construction-based can have its own set of stressors. Counselors who understand real estate issues, like landlord-tenant relationships and contractual obligations, could be better-positioned to support patients who have addiction disorders fueled by these workplace stressors.
The third-largest sector by employment in Oklahoma is manufacturing, which nets $18.5 billion in revenue per year. This is an industry with tight deadlines, night shifts, and heavy equipment that often requires extra training and experience. Supply chain disruptions can lead to stressful work cultures, so counselors who understand the drivers of issues within manufacturing can be best equipped to help clients who are employed in these areas.
However, if you choose to work in addiction counseling, the most important thing you can understand are the causes of addiction and how you can help your patients get out from under it.
Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)
Daily, counselors work with patients on sensitive issues that can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Most states have stringent requirements for educational backgrounds and licensing before one can become a full-fledged addiction counselor. Indeed, degree and licensing requirements within the field can be very high, which limits the types of positions that those with only an associate degree can pursue.
In Oklahoma, attaining an associate degree in counseling will allow students to begin working in the field in certain support roles, such as addiction recovery support specialists. Most of the time, attaining an associate degree is a way for students interested in the addiction counseling field to gain exposure to the workplace and a deeper understanding of the day-to-day tasks that they would be completing full-time should they pursue counseling in earnest. This will often help them to pursue further education and certification down the road. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for entry-level support roles like social and human service assistants was $37,610 in 2021.
An associate degree usually only takes around two years to complete. Students will take around 60 credit hours’ worth of general and focused coursework that will prepare them for either an entry-level role in the field, or for further education.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)
Oklahoma students should be aware that the state has very stringent education and work requirements for counselor licensure. Much like students who have only completed their associate degree, most students with only a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling will need to continue to graduate school before they are eligible to sit for counselor licensing exams. The exception is for students who wish to become a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) in Oklahoma, which falls under the umbrella of addiction counseling.
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Completing their undergraduate degree in counseling, substance abuse studies, or other related fields will also allow students to become eligible for careers in human-centered positions like psychiatric technicians. Additional supporting jobs in the counseling field that are open to students with only a bachelor’s degree include job titles like mental health specialist, social worker, mental health rehabilitation specialist, and mental health technician. According to ZipRecruiter, Oklahoma organizations will pay an average of $45,740 per year for behavioral health specialists.
Students will need to plan for this degree to take at least four years unless they are able to find and complete an accelerated degree program. These four years will be spent completing around 120 credit hours of coursework, as well as an internship or some type of practicum to give the students some experience with what their positions will be like if they choose to go all the way and become a counselor.
Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)
Most types of counseling licenses in Oklahoma require students to earn their master’s degree in substance abuse counseling, psychology, or a related human-services field before they can be eligible to sit for the proper licensing exam. In some cases, students wishing to become a counselor in a specific sub-field may choose to study a master’s degree related to their field. Overall, students looking to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oklahoma can expect to complete their 60-credit master’s degree in counseling with targeted coursework, such as marriage counseling specializations for those who wish to become marriage counselors. According to Indeed, the average licensed professional counselor who works in Oklahoma earns $62,975.
Additionally, while graduates of a bachelor’s program can work in addiction counseling, those who complete a master’s as well can gain a higher level of licensure.
Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)
Although some students may decide to pursue a doctorate in counseling or psychology, this level of education is not usually a prerequisite to becoming a practicing addiction counselor. In fact, the only client-facing professionals in this field that must earn a doctorate are psychologists or psychiatrists. Most students who choose to go the extra mile with their post-graduate education are looking to become professors or research specialists who tackle the root cause of specific mental health conditions.
Doctorate degrees in the counseling field can help candidates gain advanced clinical, supervision, and even lab skills necessary to make breakthrough discoveries in the mental health field. This can allow candidates to take on highly complex positions in the field, guiding those with less training and experience to improve the treatment and diagnosis process. According to Salary.com, the average psychologist with a PhD in Oklahoma can expect to earn between $92,892-114,279 per year.
Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Oklahoma
To become an addiction counselor in Oklahoma, students must undertake a rigorous education and counseling certifications process. Addiction counselors require strict education and testing, as well as work requirements before they can work one-on-one with patients. Oklahoma requirements are strict, requiring those who wish to work in this field to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree either in alcohol and drug abuse counseling or another similar counseling field. They must also complete at least one full year of supervised work experience in the field.
Oklahoma offers two levels of certification within the addiction counseling specialty field. The first level is called the Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC) and the second is called the Licensed Alcohol Drug Counselor (LADC). The CADC certification is open to any student who has a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral science field. Their undergraduate education must include at least 45 hours of instruction in co-occurring disorders or abnormal psychology courses. The LADC level of certification is more rigorous overall, requiring at least a master’s degree.
Both levels of licensure also require students to complete a 300-hour practicum with at least 10 hours of training in the following 12 core areas:
- Case Management
- Crisis Intervention
- Client Education
- Treatment Planning
- Reports and Recordkeeping
- Counseling (individual, group, family)
Additionally, Oklahoma also requires addiction counselor candidates to have completed certain work requirements. For CADC candidates, they will have needed to work in the addictions field for at least 2 years, or 4,000 work hours, before receiving their license. For those two years, the CADC candidate must work directly with patients who suffer from addiction for at least 2,000 hours. LADC candidates have a less stringent work requirement, only 2,000 hours with 1,000 hours of direct contact with patients who suffer from addiction. Both CADC and LADC candidates must also have weekly 1-hour face-to-face meetings with their supervisors, who must also be approved by the Oklahoma State Board of Behavioral Health and already be licensed in a counseling field. Both the supervisor and candidate must have signed Form 206 (Supervision Contract) before the supervision relationship has been deemed valid.
In addition to educational and work requirements, Oklahoma also requires all candidates to have passed a criminal background check. All application forms must be signed and notarized, and students must also pay an application fee of $175. CADC applications also require students to send in a picture of themselves, while the LADC application requires a copy of the applicant's driver’s license. Candidates must also sign the Code of Ethics form together with their application.
Finally, candidates must undertake specific written and oral exams administered by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium. For the CADC certification, students must take and pass the Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam. For LADC certification, candidates must take and pass the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam. To renew one’s counseling license in Oklahoma, CADC holders must complete 270 hours of continuing education, of which 135 hours are specific to drugs and alcohol education. LADC holders must complete 180 hours of continuing education, of which 90 hours are specific to drug and alcohol education. Renewal fees cost $125, and the process must be completed every two years.
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Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates
- School Counselor
School counselors have the important job of supporting students’ academic, development, and communication needs. They can help create safe learning environments for students, becoming important advocates for community building and leadership.
- Clinical Social Worker
Clinical social workers are tasked with helping to diagnose and treat individuals with behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders. Their work is crucial to helping clients manage challenges and self-damaging behaviors, including anxiety, depression, addiction, and eating disorders.
- Adult and Geriatric Counselors
These counselors provide physical and psychological assessments for older adults. In particular, these counselors are trained to work with clients who may be seeing declining mental and physical health due to aging, including working with individuals who are experiencing disorders like depression and dementia.
- Sports Psychologist
Athletes can face challenging and demanding environments that require them to physically and mentally perform at their peak during competition. Sports psychologists are trained to work with amateur and professional athletes to help their goal setting, focusing, and ability to relax both mentally and physically to ensure that they can maintain peak performance over time.
- Career Counselor
Students may find it difficult to assess their strengths and choose career paths that are good fits for their interests. Career counselors help clients evaluate their abilities, education, backgrounds, and interests to find the types of jobs that they may be interested in pursuing long-term.
- College Counselor
As the post-secondary education application process becomes more complex, students and families may find themselves with questions about how to find the best colleges for their future goals. A college counselor can help students assess their achievements and recommend colleges based on affordability and the best programs for their interests.
- Military Counselor
Active-duty service members, military families, and veterans may struggle with issues stemming from long-distance relationships and PTSD. Military counselors are psychology professionals who are trained to specifically help those with a military background through one-on-one sessions, couples therapy, or even group therapy.
- Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors will often work with patients in one-on-one or group sessions to identify and work through mental health conditions they may be struggling with. Typical areas that mental health counselors will help clients address include suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, family challenges, self-esteem issues, and stress management.
- Grief Counselor
Many people find it difficult to function and complete daily tasks when they lose loved ones or close friends. During these times, grief counselors can become important resources, helping patients find ways to grieve for the death of loved ones and work through bereavement by supporting them through their grief.
- Behavioral Therapist
Behavioral therapists are medical professionals trained to support patients with techniques that can help them develop positive thought patterns, thereby improving overall mental and emotional wellbeing. Their work involves tailoring treatment plans according to a patient's progress.