How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Tennessee

Addiction Counseling Education Guide for Tennessee

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Addiction counseling colleges and degree programs in Tennessee are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Counselors can work with individuals, families, and groups to treat addictions and substance abuse disorders. Addiction counseling programs prepare students to work with clients in a variety of settings including outpatient treatment centers, residential facilities, and private practices if they gain enough education.

Though addiction counselors in Tennessee need only earn a high school diploma or a GED, they must still have hundreds of hours of education in the field. The easiest way to earn those hours is by attending an addiction counseling program. Tennessee has a number of addiction counseling degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can pursue an associate degree in addiction counseling, which typically only takes two years to complete, or a bachelor’s if they want the full four-year experience or education. After earning a bachelor’s, you may decide that you need a more advanced degree, such as a master's in addiction counseling, which takes two to three years and will allow you to run your own private practice. Those who want to add specialization in a different form of counseling to their repertoire can do so in their master’s, or they can pursue a doctorate degree in addiction counseling, mental health counseling, or research, which takes four to five years and can give you access to careers in academia or research.

Most addiction counseling programs are designed to prepare students for careers as professional counselors. In order to be eligible for licensure, candidates must complete hours of education from an accredited program and pass a state-approved examinations. In Tennessee, addiction counselors need to complete at least 15 contact hours of continuing education every year in order to maintain their license.

The coursework in an addiction counseling program covers topics such as human development, psychopathology, assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning, and ethics. Students also receive training in individual and group counseling techniques, crisis intervention, and case management. Addiction counseling is an important part of the treatment process for those suffering from addiction. Counselors help patients understand their addiction, develop coping skills, and make positive changes in their lives.


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Online Addiction Counseling Education in Tennessee


An addiction counseling professional is a person who helps people with addiction problems. They may work in a private practice, or they may work in a hospital or other healthcare setting, such as a rehabilitation facility. Addiction counselors help people to understand their addiction and to make changes in their lives so that they can recover and live healthier lives.

Addiction counselors use a variety of techniques to help people recover from addiction. They may use individual counseling, group counseling, and/or family counseling. They may also use medication to help people control their craving for drugs or alcohol. Addiction counselors work with people of all ages, from young adults to seniors.

During addiction treatment, an addiction counselor focuses on educating the patient, family members, and even friends about the physical and mental aspects of the disease. Addiction counselors help patients through the stages of change and strive to achieve sobriety. They can also be present during intervention and recovery and provide guidance on how to lead a sober lifestyle. The role of an addiction counselor can be very important in the recovery process.

Addiction counselors must have at least a master’s degree in order to be licensed in most states, but that’s not the case in Tennessee. Here, you’ll only be required to have a high school diploma and the pertinent education, though an associate or bachelor’s degree is the best way to achieve earning these educational hours. States also require that counselors complete a certain number of hours of supervised clinical experience and Tennessee is no different. In addition to formal education and training, addiction counselors must also be able to empathize with their clients and have a strong desire to help them recover from their addiction.

Learn More About Online Counseling Programs & Requirements

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

An associate degree in addiction counseling is a two-year degree that will prepare Tennessee students for entry-level positions in the field of addiction counseling. Most programs consist of around 60 credit hours of coursework, which includes general education courses and core courses dealing with psychology and counseling. Students in an addiction counseling associate degree program take coursework in psychology, human services, and addiction studies, as well as counseling practicums so that they have experience to take with them into real-world situations. The curriculum is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work with clients struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

An associate degree in addiction counseling can lead to a career as an addiction counselor, case manager, or social worker. Addiction counselors work with clients who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction, providing them with support and guidance as they navigate their recovery journey. Case managers work with clients to connect them with resources and services that can help them in their recovery process. While this degree is technically more than what is required for addiction counselor licensure and will get your foot in the door for any addiction counseling position in Tennessee, those with bachelor’s degrees tend to gain access to higher position within companies, practices, facilities, and more.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

A bachelor's degree in addiction counseling is a four-year degree that can be obtained at many colleges and universities within around four years of full-time attendance. Most bachelor’s degree programs in addiction counseling include coursework in psychology, sociology, and human services. Programs also typically include an internship component, which allows students to gain hands-on experience working with clients in a clinical setting.

Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in addiction counseling are prepared to work in a variety of settings including outpatient treatment centers, residential facilities, and more. They may also work as case managers or substance abuse counselors in community mental health agencies or social service organizations. A bachelor’s degree will help you to move up more quickly within an organization, but you cannot work in private practice on your own unless you earn a master’s degree.

Online Masters Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

Applicants to a master's degree in addiction counseling program should understand the process of diagnosing people with substance use disorders. Students should also already be familiar with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) systems. In addition, they should be knowledgeable about intervention techniques and treatment plans. These skills are essential in the field of addiction counseling and, though you will gain more in-depth knowledge in your master’s program, you should already have knowledge to draw on from your undergraduate degree. After completing a master's degree program, students can become certified to provide one-on-one and private practice counseling services to people with addiction problems and other issues, depending on their education.

Students pursuing a master's degree in addiction counseling will learn even more about diagnosis, assessment, and how to adapt treatments to different environments and patients. Although many programs share similar coursework, MA programs tend to emphasize clinical practice and technical skills. Students will also study treatment specialization, which focuses on varying treatment strategies for different clients and settings. Students will also gain insight into various therapeutic approaches. Some of these approaches include mindfulness-based approaches, motivational enhancement, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Addiction counseling is a field that is more in-demand than ever. More and more people are struggling with addiction and need someone to help them through the process of recovery. A PhD in Addiction Counseling can give you the skills and knowledge you need to help people recover from addiction and the ability to run entire facilities that aim to help recovering addicts or even teach the next generation of counselors. There are some different types of addiction counseling programs available at this level, so you will need to choose the one that best fits your needs. You will also need to decide if you want to specialize in a particular type of addiction counseling, such as alcohol or drug abuse counseling, or you might want to branch out into other types of addiction such as addictions to the internet, shopping, sex, etc.

Once you have completed your PhD in Addiction Counseling, you will be able to work in the usual settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and private practice. But you will also be able to teach at the collegiate level if you so choose, or work in research if there are positions available.

Online Addiction Counseling Certifications

There are many addiction counseling certifications across the country that one can pursue to help others with addiction. However, in Tennessee, the only available license is that of the licensed alcohol and drug counselor (LADC I & II), which we’ll talk about earning in the next section.

Other options for those who already plan to earn their LADC license are available. These are certifications, which can help you expand your clientele and reach out to addicts who are focused on things other than drugs and alcohol. For instance, those who wish to expand their range may become a certified sex addiction therapist (CSAT), which can help you expand your clients and learn more about addictive behaviors.

Become an Addiction Counselor in Tennessee?


Addiction counseling is a process through which an individual with a substance abuse problem receives guidance and support from a trained professional. The goal of addiction counseling is to help the individual identify and overcome the factors that contribute to their addiction. There are many steps that must be taken in order to become an addiction counseling professional in Tennessee. Here is a basic overview of the process.

  • Step 1: Earn your high school diploma and begin an associate or bachelor’s degree

    In Tennessee, you technically don’t need to complete any degree except a high school diploma in order to work as a substance abuse counselor, though you do need 270 hours of education in the field. This means that you can start working while you finish your undergraduate degree in order to gain experience in the field. Or you can focus on your education and finish your degree before looking for work. After all, you must also be 21 years of age to be licensed as an addiction counselor in Tennessee, so there’s no reason not to go ahead and complete your education.

  • Step 2: Obtain a degree from an accredited institution in addiction counseling or a related field

    An accredited degree in addiction counseling can be obtained from many different types of institutions. Some common places to look for these programs include community colleges, online colleges, and universities that offer health-related degrees. Many addiction counseling programs offer certification programs offered through professional organizations such as the National Association for Addiction Professionals, though there are requirements you must meet before beginning these programs. The curriculum for an accredited addiction counseling program will vary depending on the level of degree being pursued. However, all programs will typically include coursework in topics such as human behavior, psychology, and chemical dependency. Additionally, most programs will require students to complete a practicum or internship in order to gain experience working with clients who have substance abuse issues.

  • Step 3: Complete your work experience with a licensed addiction counselor

    While many addiction counseling programs will require that students complete an internship with a certified addiction counselor as part of their degree requirements, you’ll have to complete supervised experience whether it is required by your school or not. This provides students with the opportunity to gain first-hand experience working with clients struggling with addiction and is required to prove you can do the work and gain licensure. These experiences can be completed within a variety of different settings such as outpatient treatment centers, residential facilities, or in private practices. Students will typically work closely with a supervising counselor to learn how to provide effective counseling services to clients. This also allows students to develop relationships with potential employers and mentors who can provide guidance and support throughout their career.

  • Step 4: Pass the National Certified Addiction Counselor Level I written exam or the Master Addiction Counselor written exam and the jurisprudence exam

    These written exams were created to test your knowledge and skills in the field of addiction counseling. If you want to become an addiction counselor, you must pass one of these written examinations, and all addiction counselors must pass the jurisprudence examination approved by the state Board. The exams will cover topics such as human growth and development, counseling theories and techniques, assessment and diagnosis, professional orientation and ethical issues, research and evaluation, and social and cultural foundations.

  • Step 5: Obtain a state license in order to practice as an addiction counselor

    In order to practice as an addiction counselor, you will need to obtain a state license. The requirements for licensure vary from state to state, but you’ll need to follow those listed above in order to gain licensure in Tennessee. You’ll send transcripts, proof that you passed exams, and a fee to the state Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors. You’ll also need to complete 15 continuing education contact hours every year in order to maintain your license. According to the Board “Nine (9) hours must be face to face and six (6) hours may be multi-media with at least three (3) of the fifteen (15) hours relating to ethics.” Once you have met all the requirements, you will be able to apply for a license and start practicing as an addiction counselor.

What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Addiction Counseling?


There are many career options available for those with a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling. Graduates can find positions in a variety of settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, mental health clinics, and more. Addiction counselors help people struggling with substance abuse disorders to overcome their addiction and live a sober life. Most addiction counselors work with clients one-on-one to provide support and guidance. During counseling sessions, counselors may use techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to help clients identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their addiction. Counselors may also develop treatment plans, conduct assessments, and collaborate with other members of the treatment team to ensure that their client is receiving the best possible care. In addition to working directly with clients, addiction counselors may also be involved in prevention and outreach activities.

However, there are also options outside the addiction counseling field. With only another two years education, you can move into another type of counseling, such as family and marriage or child counseling. You could even choose to work as a school counselor at a high school where your addiction counseling skills could come in handy again. So there are many options.

Potential Career Options and Salaries for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • Clinical Social Work:

    A clinical social worker is responsible for providing clinical social work services to patients and their families. This includes assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, and therapy. They also work with the interdisciplinary team to provide support and resources to patients and families.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in social work from an accredited school of social work
    • Licensed as a Clinical Social Worker in the state of practice
    • Two years of clinical social work experience

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for social workers, all other in the US in 2021 was $60,840 and mental health and substance abuse social workers earned $49,130
    • The mean annual wage for healthcare social workers in Tennessee is $52,920 and mental health and substance abuse social workers earn $41,190
  • Adult or Geriatric Counselor:

    An adult or geriatric counselor will provide counseling and support services to adults and geriatric patients. They will work with patients to help them cope with mental and emotional disorders, life transitions, and other issues. This counselor will also provide guidance on how to manage stress, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and make positive lifestyle changes.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field
    • 2+ years of experience working as a counselor or therapist
    • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
    • Strong interpersonal skills

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors in the US in 2021 was $38,560
    • The mean annual wage for rehabilitation counselors in Tennessee is $40,590
  • Health Psychologist:

    A health psychologist is a professional who helps people deal with psychological and emotional aspects of their health. They work with patients to help them cope with chronic illnesses, pain, stress, and other health-related issues.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A doctorate degree in psychology
    • A license to practice psychology
    • Certification in health psychology (optional)

    Estimated Salary

    • The mean annual wage for clinical and counseling psychologists in the US in 2021 was $99,640
    • The mean annual wage for clinical and counseling psychologists in Tennessee is $108,560
  • Child Counselor:

    A child counselor will provide therapy and guidance to children who are experiencing behavioral or mental health issues. They will create individualized treatment plans, conduct therapy sessions, and collaborate with the child's family and other professionals to ensure the best possible outcome for the child.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's Degree in Counseling, Social Work, or a related field
    • Licensed as a professional counselor in the state of practice
    • At least 2 years of experience working with children in a clinical setting

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors in the US in 2021 was $60,510 and school psychologists earned $78,780
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Tennessee is $54,010 and school psychologists earn $67,420
  • Group Counselor or Therapist:

    A group counselor or therapist will provide counseling and therapy services to groups of clients with similar issues. They will create and implement treatment plans, facilitate group sessions, and provide individual counseling as needed. A group counselor will also maintain communication with clients’ families and other professionals involved in their care.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling or a related field
    • Licensed as a counselor or therapist in the state where practicing
    • Experience leading groups and providing individual counseling

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for marriage and family therapists in the US in 2021 was $49,880 and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for marriage and family therapists in Tennessee is $43,560 and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned $42,210
  • Mental Health Counselor:

    A mental health counselor is responsible for providing counseling and therapy services to patients with mental health disorders. They work with patients to help them understand and manage their disorders, develop coping mechanisms, and improve their overall mental health and well-being.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or a related field
    • Experience in counseling and therapy
    • Knowledge of mental health disorders and treatments
    • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Tennessee is $42,210
  • Behavior Therapist:

    A behavior therapist helps patients who are dealing with unwanted behaviors, which may be related to trauma, phobias, or even addiction. They help them to develop thought patterns or behavioral patterns that will help them deal with unwanted behaviors and eventually change them for the better.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's degree in psychology, social work, or related field
    • Experience providing behavior therapy
    • Knowledge of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Tennessee is $42,210
  • School Counselor:

    This professional is responsible for providing guidance to students in areas such as educational and career planning, personal/social development, and college and scholarship preparation. They also provide support to parents and school staff.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's degree in school counseling or a related field
    • Possession of or eligibility for a valid California teaching credential
    • At least two years of teaching or counseling experience

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors in the US in 2021 was $60,510
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Tennessee is $54,010
  • Organizational Counselor:

    An organizational counselor works with individuals and groups within an organization to help them improve communication and resolve conflict. They may also provide guidance on organizational development and change.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A bachelor's degree in psychology, human resources, or a related field
    • Strong interpersonal and communication skills
    • Ability to work independently and as part of a team

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists in the US in 2021 was $105,310
    • The mean annual wage for counselors (all other) in Tennessee is $41,010 and therapists (all other) earn $51,150. Clinical Counseling Psychologists earn $108,560
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