How to Become an Addiction Therapist


Becoming a therapist who specializes in addiction is one of the most challenging yet rewarding professions out there. It requires a whole lot of work, but the payoff is great and always worth the struggle in the end. Addiction therapists have the chance to save individuals, families, careers, and really make a difference for such a wide range of clients.

What most people don’t know about the profession of addiction therapy is that it is quite a complex field within itself. For starters, there are all different “levels” and types of addiction, and one in profession has to be roundly knowledgeable upon any given circumstance at any given time. Even in moments of uncertainty, you as an addiction therapist must portray confidence and leadership to those around you. An addiction therapist covers all types of general therapy and counseling (family, relationship, clinical, abusive, anxiety, depression, etc.) and then some. As previously stated, it’s hard work, but the results are much greater than the process.

Work Environment

In the field of therapy, one has many different options of work environment. First off, there is always the option to own your own practice in which you work. However, most therapists choose to do this a few years or so into the field (at least) due to the fact that it is exceedingly costly.

Related Reading: Alcohol Therapist Career Guide

The most commonly used place of work is in a clinic or community-counseling center.  These centers employ a wide range of amount of counselors (depending on the size and location) counselors or therapists of all levels of experience at one place. If you are just starting off in your field, this is a great place for you because you aren’t alone and your income of clientele isn’t solely dependent on you (as it would be in a private practice), but partially from the clinic or center itself.

Of course there are other possible places of employment such as in schools, programs, and more, however, the above are the most common work environments and the ones that you will find almost anywhere.



Every state of residence/work has different requirements and certificates necessary to become an addiction therapist. However, almost always, the first step for you should be to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in any study regarding the field of counseling or psychology. Some great options could be to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in human resources or social work. Getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology, as a whole, is also another option that most see fit.

Once you have obtained your Bachelor’s degree, this lays the foundation for your work in addiction therapy. This degree will give you a basic understanding and comprehension for psychology before you narrow in on your specialty of addiction. What’s great about this basic degree is that if you decide to switch your area of counseling or therapy one day, it is always possible to do with your degree.

Another option that some states and facilities may offer is for their hopeful employee to begin their training with only an Associate’s degree in addiction training. It is always a case-by-case basis on which degree you should have and what not, so the most overall accepted one would have to be the Bachelor’s degree.


Once your degree is obtained and you begin your study on the specifics of “addiction therapy”, more often than not, you will need to complete an internship in that field. Internships that are acceptable for this type of study can range from a wide variety, so you just have to pick the one that fits best for you. Most internships will typically last anywhere from 4 to 12 months, depending on how many hours you work, the state you live in, and the type of internship.


A state license or certificate of practice is always a requirement for any field you want to work in. You need to make sure that you take the state certification test as soon as you have finished your training and are eligible. You will also need to take a drug test once you have found a place of employments to be certified that you are free of alcohol or any type of drugs. It is always suggested to take the national certification test which is overseen by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Necessary Skills

In addition to the degrees and certifications, there are certain qualities and skills that are absolutely necessary in this profession such as possessing great people skills, having wonderful problem-solving logic, patience, and having the ability to effectively communicate to a wide variety of people.


There is a wide range of salary that you can collect depending upon where your place of employment is and your experience. The higher your experience, the higher your rate per session. If you work in a private practice, your salary is often higher than if you work in a counseling center. However, the nation’s average for this profession, according to, is around $47,000 a year.

Job Outlook

As a whole, this type of profession requires a lot of training, studying, schooling, and potentially many years without unpaid work. However, the problems of addiction are constant problems, so the future is prosperous for this field. It’s all up to you.

Related Reading

Further Reading

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