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What is Substance Abuse Counseling?

Are you interested in pursuing an addiction counseling degree in Texas? This major can lead to many rewarding careers that provide opportunities to positively impact the lives of others. Those enrolled typically learn about the various services and assistive techniques available to help people manage and recover from drug and/or alcohol addictions. It’s important to realize, however, that this field is not for everyone. Becoming an addiction counselor or other service provider can be demanding, emotionally draining, and stressful.

Addiction counselors utilized a wide variety of specialized techniques and services to assist people who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. These professionals help their patients learn how to manage the many physical and psychological difficulties that often accompany substance use, abuse, and dependency. It’s also fairly common for addiction counselors to function as advocates. While they primarily meet with patients, it’s not uncommon for these professionals to engage with family members and friends of those impacted by the condition, offering information and insight when needed. Additionally, some positions require the creation of educational programs and/or events to help others better understand addiction.

It's important to realize that daily duties and responsibilities will vary from job to job. Addiction counselors may work in many different settings, with expectations often differing based on facility type. The majority of these professionals work in outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers, but opportunities also exist with family services facilities, hospitals, residential mental health centers, and the government.

In most cases, addiction counselors will be responsible for assessing the needs of and treating substance abuse patients. They often create and review treatment plans, as well as managing recovery goals. Additionally, they tend to spend a significant amount of time working directly with addicts to identify and avoid triggers, as well as develop positive skills and behaviors. Because those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction are often diagnosed with other conditions, these professionals coordinate with other medical and mental health providers regularly to facilitate the most appropriate and effective care.

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Online Addiction Counseling Education in Texas

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to increase by 22% from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for all occupations and will result in an additional 43,600 new job openings throughout the nation yearly. While several factors are likely to impact this projected growth pattern, the increased acceptance of people seeking addiction and mental health counseling services. Another prominent contributor is a shift in state legal standards. It’s becoming more common for judges to sentence treatment and counseling services rather than jail time for people with addictions and/or mental health concerns. Additionally, the need for qualified professionals capable of working with veterans is expected to continue.

The educational services, healthcare, and social assistance industry is the sixth largest in Texas. It accounts for $123 billion in revenue each year. The state is also one of the largest employers in the nation for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that Texas employed 16,970 of these professionals as of May 2021. Only California, New York, and Pennsylvania have higher employment rates for the profession. The state annual mean wage of $49,510 for these professionals is quite low, however. Significantly, this is below the annual mean wage of $54,230 for all occupations in Texas.

There are numerous online colleges and universities located in Texas, many of which offer degree programs in addiction counseling and related subjects. Despite this, some prospective students may still be interested in pursuing distance learning due to increased scheduling flexibility. While online degrees are becoming increasingly popular and allow those enrolled to complete coursework from anywhere with internet access, those who plan to work in Texas may want to give preference to academic institutions within the state. Not only do these schools tend to have a better understanding of employer requirements and expectations in the regions, they are also far more familiar with certification and licensure regulations. Additionally, most colleges and universities work hard to establish relationships with nearby companies and organizations, so students have an easier time obtaining internships, as well as professional employment after graduation.

Notably, individuals in this field can choose to specialize in the treatment of specific demographics and backgrounds. This often requires specific knowledge and skills, and may impact daily responsibilities depending on the specialty selected. Some of the most common options include working primarily with teenagers, adults, veterans, and people with disabilities.

Those interested in this field should be aware that the profession is not ideal for everyone. While addiction counseling can be extremely rewarding, there are drawbacks. Not only can work schedules be demanding, but handling particularly difficult situations and/or cases may prove emotionally taxing over time.

Earning a degree in addiction counseling is not always required, but most related professions do expect candidates to have some amount of higher education. The type of degree needed will depend on the occupation sought.

There are many colleges and universities located in Texas, several of which offer degrees in addiction counseling and other similar fields. Prospective students can choose from programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Some institutions may also offer applicable undergraduate and graduate certificate programs.

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Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

Associate degrees in addiction counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. As undergraduate programs, they are often comprised of both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. Those enrolled will receive a broad introduction to higher education and the field of counseling. Students can expect to learn many fundamental concepts related to patient care and treatment, as well as relevant theories in counseling, case management, multicultural counseling, psychology, and family and group counseling.

This type of degree is ideal for students seeking a general introduction to addiction counseling and/or wants a strong foundation for future learning. While graduates will not qualify for state licensure or many of the counseling certifications in Texas, they may find entry-level employment as human services assistants, halfway house administrative assistants, and adolescent counselors.

Graduates will also qualify to enroll in other undergraduate degree programs. Additionally, many of the credits earned at the associate level may count towards bachelor’s degree requirements. Most colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 transfer hours from properly accredited academic institutions. While traditional bachelor’s degrees generally take four years to complete, those with associate degrees may need only two additional years of education.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in addiction counseling generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. As undergraduate programs, they are often comprised of both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. It’s important to realize that not all colleges and universities offer addiction counseling as a degree option. Instead, prospective students may need to major in a related field and select substance abuse as a concentration. Some popular alternatives include psychology, sociology, clinical social work, or mental health counseling. Instruction will vary, but students can typically expect to learn about group and individual counseling, social research methods, diagnosis of chemical or behavioral dependency, psychological evaluations and assessments, and pharmacology and psychopharmacology.

This type of degree is the minimum standard for most professions in the field and graduates are often qualified to pursue a wide variety of employment opportunities. Education hours at this level can count towards those needed to become certified in the state of Texas.

While bachelor’s degrees can increase employment prospects, choosing to pursue further education may be beneficial. Graduates often qualify for enrollment in master’s degree programs. Graduate schools have various application requirements, with most establishing minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Examination Record (GRE) scores. It’s recommended that those interested always review academic and extracurricular expectations prior to applying.

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

Master’s degrees in addiction counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Unlike at the undergraduate level, graduate programs do not require students to take any more general liberal arts education classes. Instead, instruction focuses solely on topics related to addiction and counseling.

It’s important to note, however, that some colleges and universities may have undergraduate prerequisites that must be met prior to admittance. Curriculums vary, but those enrolled can expect to learn about a wide variety of counseling approaches and research methods. Other topics commonly covered include testing and assessment, human growth and development, addiction prevention and intervention, social and cultural foundations of counseling, psychopathology and personality disorders, and building a private practice. Prior to graduation, students typically complete field work and/or a capstone project presentation.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking certification professional certification in Texas. Coursework and internship hours can count towards credentialing requirements, although additional fieldwork may be necessary. Graduates will qualify for more employment opportunities and typically enjoy higher wage potentials than those who possess only associate and/or bachelor’s degrees.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Doctorate degrees in addiction counseling generally consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours that take full-time students five to seven years to complete. These programs are typically designed to provide an in-depth assessment of the field, as well as comprehensive valuations of the social and cultural causes behind addiction. Curriculums vary, but those enrolled can typically expect to learn about the epidemiology of drug and substance abuse, history of addiction and human behavior, prevention of chemical abuse in childhood, and group psychotherapy techniques and treatment methods. Education at this level is often highly research-oriented, with most institutions requiring students to write and defend dissertations prior to graduation.

It's important for prospective students to realize that very few professions in the field require doctorate degrees in addiction counseling or related subjects. These programs are most beneficial to those seeking occupations in research, higher education, or management. Notably, graduates typically qualify for some of the best-paying professions jobs available in the field.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Texas

The first step in becoming an addiction counselor in Texas is determining your ultimate career goals. As previously mentioned, graduating with a degree in this field can qualify you for a wide variety of jobs. Identifying your preferred profession now will allow you to research relevant employment requirements. This not only ensures that you enroll in the most appropriate academic program(s), but will help you to acquire all necessary knowledge, skills, training, and experience needed to apply for your desired occupation.

If you plan to work in this field in Texas, it’s likely that you will need to become certified by the Texas Certification Board. The Texas Certification Board is a member of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) and is the autonomous arm of the Texas Association of Addiction Professionals. This board is committed to setting counselor standards in order to protect public good. It is responsible for certifying counselors in the state, administering credentialing examination, certifying continuing education providers, monitoring and enforcing counselor ethics, and promoting counselor reciprocity.

The Texas Certification Board oversees several relevant credentials:

  • Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
  • Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor (ADC)
  • Advanced Certified Prevention Specialist (ACPS)
  • Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
  • Associate Prevention Specialist (APS)
  • Certified Chemical Dependency Specialist (CCDS)
  • Certified Compulsive Gambling Counselor (CCGC)
  • Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional Applicant Status (CCJP-A)
  • Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
  • Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
  • Clinical Supervisor Designation (CSD)
  • Peer Recovery Support Specialist (PRSS)
  • Re-Entry Peer Specialist (JI-RPS)
  • Mental Health Peer Specialist (MHPS)
  • Recovery Support Peer Specialist (RSPS)
  • Peer Specialist Supervisor (PSS)
  • Peer Instructor

All certifications are based on a combination of competency and knowledge about addiction counseling, clinical supervision, and prevention. One of the most commonly sought-after credentials is the alcohol and other drug abuse counselor (ADC). Minimum requirements include verification of a 300-hour chemical dependency counseling practicum, successful IC&RC International ADC written examination scores, 270 chemical dependency education hours, and 6,000 hours of chemical dependency counseling experience. Candidates must also be Texas residents who agree to comply with the ethical standards set forth in the Texas System of Certification for Alcohol Drug Counselors. And all application fees must be paid in full.

Alternatively, you may seek to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC). The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Regulatory Services Division registers and regulated all licensed chemical dependency counselors in Texas. Licensed professionals can provide chemical dependency counseling services involving the application of principles, methods, and procedures according to ethics standards. To become a licensed chemical dependency counselor, you must first be a counselor intern (unless already licensed in another state). Requirements include being at least 18 years old, having a high school diploma or equivalent, completing 270 classroom hours of chemical dependency curricula, completing 300 hours of approved supervised field work, and passing the criminal history standards.

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Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates

  • Behavioral Therapist
    Behavioral therapists utilize various behavioral techniques to treat patients who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders. They may deliver these treatments and monitor patient progress in clinical environments, in patient homes, or in the community. These professionals primarily strive to modify and/or replace negative behaviors with positive ones, adjusting treatment plans as needed. According to PayScale, behavioral therapists make an average base hourly rate of $17.44, which translates to approximately $41,650 per year.
  • Career Counselor
    Career counselors utilize various personality, interest, and aptitude assessments to assist clients in identifying and pursuing their ideal careers. They conduct relevant research, provide helpful employment advice, and explain education requirements. These professionals may also offer a wide variety of career-related services, such as resume evaluations and mock interviews. According to PayScale, career counselors make an average base salary of $46,450 per year.
  • Clinical Social Worker
    Clinical social workers coordinate patient care interactions for individuals who need mental and/or emotional support. They provide psychosocial evaluations and therapy in hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, substance abuse treatment centers, and patient homes. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
  • Grief Counselor
    Grief counselors help clients progress through the various stages of grief after the death of loved ones. They provide direct and indirect counseling treatments to encourage healthy and productive ways of coping with loss. According to PayScale, grief counselors make an average base salary of $46,850 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors diagnose and treat patients with mental health problems and illnesses. They provide various services, including one-on-one and/or group therapy sessions, to help work through or resolve issues. These professionals may specialize in one type of treatment, such as addiction. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $44,250 per year.
  • Residential Counselor
    Residential counselors provide services and support to residents of live-in facilities. They utilize individual and group counseling sessions to address issues and resolve conflicts. These professionals may work with various demographics including those with addictions or disabilities, the elderly, and troubled youths. According to PayScale, residential counselors make an average base hourly rate of $14.46, or approximately $39,700 per year.
  • School Counselor
    School counselors provide insight and support to high school students in order to help them achieve their personal, academic, social, and development goals. They often assist during challenging situations and may meet with teachers and/or parents to ensure the best outcomes. These professionals may also refer students to other support services when necessary. According to PayScale, school counselors make an average base salary of $51,350 per year.
  • Sports Psychologist
    Sports psychologists provide support to athletes, coaches, and referees dealing with the various mental and physical demands associated with athletics. They utilize their familiarity with athletic training and competition challenges to provide the best care possible, especially when helping athletes deal with the consequences of sustaining injuries. According to PayScale, sports psychologists make an average base salary of $72,250 per year.
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