Alcoholic Treatment Center Administrator Career

The Basics

As more and more courts refer offenders for treatment and rehabilitation instead of incarceration, the need for qualified drug counselors and treatment administrators and other support and professional staff is growing. Addiction counseling programs require careful management in order to run smoothly and efficiently. Their goals of effective and safe rehabilitation for the addict are simple in concept but complex in execution. An alcoholic treatment center administrator is a management position and is integral in the smooth running of an addiction counseling program.

Alcoholic treatment center administrators ensure that treatment programs meet the needs of their clients and patients in safe and effective ways. Treatment centers vary in approach, size, orientation and in whether they provide inpatient or outpatient services.

What is an Alcoholic Treatment Center Administrator?

An alcoholic treatment center administrator manages teams of skilled rehab specialists. An alcoholic treatment center administrator has to make sure that the treatment program is run efficiently and effectively. This position requires some knowledge of the field of drug and alcohol dependency to ensure that drug and alcohol counselors are effective in their position. Normally, this involves overseeing a team of health care professionals. In addition, an alcoholic treatment center administrator must manage and oversee the daily operations associated with any business, including managing finances and budgets, and ensuring that the physical premises is safe at all times.

What Does an Alcoholic Treatment Center Administrator Do?

An alcoholic treatment center administrator is essentially a management position in a particular health care niche. The position requires a working knowledge of basic management skills in addition to an intimate knowledge of all facets of drug and alcohol counseling, treatment and  rehabilitation. And while each treatment setting is different, each will have some mixture of these two components. The administrator runs the day to day operations while professional staff provide health care, drug counseling and other rehabilitation services.

Some treatment centers provide inpatient services. These treatment centers may include a doctor, psychiatrist or other health care professionals on staff. Depending upon the orientation of the treatment center, other rehab services might also include maintaining a lawyer, life coachnutritionist, cook as well as counselors on staff. All of these people and the services they provide must be managed. This includes hiring and firing, scheduling, and managing payment for all of these people.

The administrator may also be in charge of managing the number of clients or patients being seen at the treatment facility. This may include ensuring that there are smooth intake procedures in place for entering clients/patients,  and keeping track of the number of beds available if the treatment facility provides inpatient services. This also includes treatment planning for clients/patients and discharge planning to ensure continuing success for the client/patient. These services involve delegation and managing professional intake coordinators and case managers.

An administrator may also be in charge of developing and implementing the treatment program itself. This can include structuring the type and frequency of counseling services. For example, the administrator may choose to hire counselors with a cognitive-behavioral orientation, or counselors with drug counseling certifications, depending upon the mission statement or theoretical orientation of the program itself. The treatment administrator may also include alcohol awareness and education classes as part of the rehabilitation services provided, provide and structure AA meetings onsite and oversee client/patient attendance.

The administrator may also be required to ensure that the treatment center meets all applicable local, state and federal laws. This includes making sure that all staff are aware of and manage issues of confidentiality and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance. If the treatment center provides residential treatment services, most states require that the facility be licensed. It is the job of the treatment center administrator to ensure that all licensing requirements are met on a continuing basis.

What are the Educational Requirements to Become an Alcoholic Treatment Center Administrator?

An alcoholic treatment center administrator requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree as a minimum educational minimum. Training in the business of treatment is essential. Thus, classes focusing on business, advertising, marketing, medical billing and coding may be required in addition to classes about drug and alcohol dependency and recovery models.

Many administrator positions may require some experience in counseling, psychology, or social work. This may be in the form of a drug and alcohol counseling license, or prior work experience in a treatment center. Many of these positions require that the administrator have prior counseling experience in the drug or alcohol field. Obtaining a drug and alcohol counseling license is one stepping stone to a managerial position.

Drug and alcohol counseling training can be done either online or within a physical educational facility. Programs vary from a two year associate’s degree to a PhD degree. The depth of the class work done varies with the educational level undertaken.

At a minimum, an associate’s degree in psychology or counseling will require classes in counseling theories, case management, multicultural counseling general psychology. This is generally a two year program and prepares the student to work in an administrative assistant or counseling position. It also requires certification. Each state requires certification and certification requirements vary depending upon the educational level and type of counseling involved. At the associate degree level, you can look to pass certification exams and requirements for a drug counseling certification.

Some addiction treatment programs require that the administrator provide direct supervision to the counselors. In that situation, a master’s degree and licensure may be required. A master’s degree may be in counseling, psychology or human services. Case management skills and experience are particularly valuable for the alcohol treatment center administrator candidate. A master’s and licensure in social work can be a great stepping stone into a treatment facility management position.

A master’s in social work is usually a 2 year full-time program with both formal classes and field work. Classes may consist of human behavior, case management, counseling, wellness and integrated care. Getting a master’s in social work (MSW) is the first step. Most positions require the candidate to become a licensed social worker (LSW). Exams and requirements vary from state to state and once licensed in one state, it is often possible to transfer that license to a different state.

What Does It Take To Become an Alcoholic Treatment Center Administrator?

  • Good communicators: Treatment facility managers must interface effectively with professional and supportive staff.
  • Good delegation skills: A good manager knows when and what to delegate and how to follow up.
  • Psychologically minded: An alcoholic treatment center administrator must be able to be supportive of client recovery and empathetic with staff engaged in helping clients toward recovery.
  • Good organizational skills: A good administrator must be able to not only organize themselves, but also the program and supporting staff. In a recovery treatment center, the administrator may wear many hats, and must be skilled and organized in a variety of areas.
  • Must be willing to say “no”: Part of being an effective administrator is knowing when to say “no” to a request that is either unnecessary or unhelpful in some way.
  • Balancing Work-life: Balance between the intense needs of clients and staff in this setting and creating a calm space for yourself in the face of that intensity helps an administrator avoid burnout.
  • Detail oriented: So much of the day to day operation of a treatment facility lies in the tiny details of operation. While delegation can help, a good administrator is able to see and work with both the larger overall goals of the treatment facility and the day to day details involved in running a facility.

How Much Does an Alcoholic Treatment Center Administrator Make?

Pay varies quite a bit, depending upon the facility, its size and the number of employees being supervised. This is almost always a full time salaried position.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2016 median pay for a social and community service manager is $64,680 per year or $31.10 per hour. This figure is representative of a manager with a bachelor’s degree. In a hospital setting, managing a large substance abuse program, a program director may make as much as $115,000. This position would also require at least a bachelor’s degree and involve managing subordinate managers and professionals in larger groups of moderate complexity.

However, according to PayScale, a residential treatment program manager earns on average, only about $41,000 annually. PayScale uses a profession survey to gather its information.

What Professions are Similar to Alcoholic Treatment Center Administrator?

Clinical Program Director: This position supervises and implements the counseling and treatment within a rehabilitation of other mental health program. The clinical director usually provides supervision to the counseling staff so that counseling staff can discuss client treatment and outcomes in a safe and professional setting. Both the counseling staff and the program director are bound by confidentiality.

Substance Abuse Counselor: A substance abuse counselor provides direct counseling services to a client or patient within a treatment or mental health setting. Substance abuse counselors come with varying skill and certification levels. An associate’s degree and certification is required for basic substance abuse counseling. The same is true for a bachelor’s level. Once a substance abuse counselor has either a master’s or doctorate degree, they are highly skilled counselors with professional licenses.

Recovery Assistant: This position provides direct services to clients in recovery centers. These services might include yoga, massage, spiritual counseling, or other services that promote health and healing for the body and mind.  The position usually requires knowledge of addiction and recovery, and a certified alcohol or drug counseling candidate is often preferred. This position will offer assistance in milieu settings and will often provide other supportive services that might be needed.

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