It’s virtually impossible to stay substance-free after detox without the appropriate emotional support.
Drug addiction is considered a mental health disorder. It is a physiological, physical, and emotional condition. When a person has been using drugs and alcohol for prolonged periods, it changes the chemistry of the brain and makes it difficult to stay stopped.
Overcoming drug or alcohol dependence requires significant input from mental health professionals. A drug and alcohol counselor helps to mentor a person to pursue a healthy life.
If you or a loved one is going to rehab, they will receive valuable support from a drug and alcohol counselor.
What Is a Drug and Alcohol Counselor?
A certified drug and alcohol counselor is a mental health professional who helps people to break free from an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
They also help clients to manage other behavioral problems if they have co-occurring disorders.
Drug and alcohol counselors don’t prescribe medication, diagnosis of mental health conditions, or give therapy. Their role is to guide the addicted person and their family to understand the substance use disorder.
They also help people to become self-sufficient and support them to:
- Gain employment
- Stay in employment
- Find housing
- Develop a positive support network
- Understand how addiction is affecting a person
- Develop strategies to create a life that is conducive to healing
- Heal the family trauma that results from a person’s addiction
How A Drug and Alcohol Counselor Aids The Community
The drug and alcohol counselor has a profoundly positive impact on their communities. They help addicted people to heal, improve family relationships, reduce rates of addiction, and reduce crime and hospitalization rates.
What Are the Duties Of a Drug and Alcohol Counselor?
The day to day life of a drug and alcohol counselor is focused on helping people to change their behavior and stay resolute in their recovery.
- Evaluating the severity of a substance use disorder
- Create treatment plans
- Coaching people with coping mechanisms
- Finding jobs
- Helping people to reestablish a previous career
- Lead group therapy sessions
- Provide courts with progress reports and progress updates
- Creating aftercare plans
- Referral of clients to support groups
- Supporting and guiding family members
When a person has been gripped by addiction for a long time, they may have caused damage to their careers, finances, home life, and relationships.
Many people battling addiction have burned their bridges with friends and family, become homeless, and gained a criminal record.
After rehab, they are faced with a fresh new start. But the new journey includes several obstacles. The drug and alcohol counselor plays a pivotal role in overcoming the hurdles of pursuing a positive new life.
Research shows that finding gainful employment after rehab significantly improves their likelihood of staying strong in their recovery.
Having a job in recovery:
- Improves self-esteem
- Instills a sense of responsibility
- Gives a person’s life meaning and purpose
- Distracts a person from negative thought processes
- Improves social cohesion
- Stops a break in employment gaps
The worry about finding a new job after drug and alcohol treatment can be a huge worry. Employment gaps and fear of stigma in the employment world may lead to a loss of confidence.
A drug and alcohol counselor can assist a person to feel more confident about going into employment and signpost them to training and job opportunities.
Helping People Understand Their Addiction
Drug and alcohol counselors are trained to mentor people in developing effective coping mechanisms for when they experience cravings.
This could include preventing hunger, loneliness, tiredness, or anger which could trigger a relapse. It could also mean teaching a person to stay mindful in times of stress.
Supporting The Family
Counselors work closely with family members as they are affected by addiction. They can also have some influence over a person’s addiction.
A drug and alcohol counselor helps to educate families about the nature of addiction and ways to help their addicted loved ones to overcome their problems. Counselors also update family members on the progress of treatment and other factors.
Refer Clients to Support Groups
Drug and alcohol counselors have knowledge of and access to a wide variety of support groups and will be able to recommend the most appropriate groups for a person’s specific needs.
As the counselor will have a thorough knowledge of you or your loved one’s addiction and treatment they may recommend support groups such as:
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Al-Anon (for families of addicted people)
- Dialectical behavioral therapy groups
Create Aftercare Plans
As recovery from addiction is a long-term issue, a suitable and effective aftercare plan is vital.
Based on their assessment of you, a drug and alcohol counselor may include any of the following suggestions in your aftercare plan:
- Stay in Sober Living after rehab. Sober living programs provide a bridge between rehab and the outside world. Living amongst other people who are battling addiction can provide the support and encouragement you need. It is also an opportunity to build relationships with people within the recovery community.
- Join the District Recovery Community alumni program. This program is a group of like-minded individuals who continue to support each other after rehab. Recovery is not about simply stopping a substance, it’s about replacing the addicted lifestyle with a healthy lifestyle. The regular fun bonding activities help many people to pursue new hobbies and activities that improve their happiness and prevent relapse.
- Reach out regularly to 12 step support groups. Peer support groups are an essential element of staying substance-free. Your counselor will most probably advise these groups in an aftercare plan as they are so effective.
- Have a regular group and individual therapy. As therapy helps a person to address negative thought patterns that can trigger a relapse, it is typically a core component of an aftercare plan.
What Training and Qualifications Does A Drug and Alcohol Counselor Have?
The training and qualifications required for a person to become a drug and alcohol counselor depend on the state where they live.
Typically, a training program of two years is necessary although it is becoming more common to require a degree in Psychology, Sociology, or Social Work.
Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor (CATC) Qualifications
In California, there are six levels of certification in drug and alcohol treatment. The Addiction Counsellor Certification Board of California issues these qualifications.
These levels include:
- CATC I
- CATC II
- CATC III
- CATC IV
- CATC V
- CATC N
To gain the most basic certification as a drug and alcohol counselor, a degree is not required. The training for this level involves completing either:
A Certificate in Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) / Addiction Studies, or a Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Studies (ADS) Community College Program.
Topics covered in the syllabus of these training programs include:
- Drugs and society
- Family & Addiction
- Treatment and Recovery
- Co-Occurring Disorders
- Group Counseling
- Physiological Effects of Drugs
A person also needs to gain 255 hours of work experience.
So even at the most basic level of training, a drug and alcohol counselor will already be knowledgeable and equipped to effectively assist a person to live a happy life in recovery.
The higher grades of qualification require a degree or a master’s degree. A good level of education is needed for this role as the counselor must have a broad understanding of the various aspects to be effective.
Although education and training are important, a drug and alcohol counselor possess certain personality characteristics and abilities.
A great drug and alcohol counselor can forge meaningful relationships with people from a wide range of social sectors. People who are already on a recovery journey tend to make fantastic drug and alcohol counselors because they can relate to the addicted person.
Drug and alcohol counselors are caring and nonjudgmental characters. They have a strong desire to help people. You should be able to feel free to express yourself about sensitive topics without fear of judgment or criticism. Even if you relapse, a good drug and alcohol counselor will never make you feel ashamed or hold it against you.
District Recovery Community Sober Living Homes
If you or a loved one completes an Orange County detox, a sober living home at District Recovery Community will keep you in touch with a certified drug and alcohol counselor during your stay.
You will gain enormous support from our staff who are available every day of the year to help you with getting a job, hold you accountable, and recommend suitable training and job opportunities.
Our staff is hired on their characteristics and training. Every staff member has a genuine desire to help others to succeed in their recovery and pursue a new and healthy life.
The certified drug and alcohol counselors at District Recovery Community are dedicated to ensuring that every patient has the highest possible chance of staying substance-free.
If you or a loved one successfully overcome an addiction, perhaps you could also consider training to become a drug and alcohol counselor?