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What Do I Do to Become a Chemical Health or Mental Health Counselor?

Question by Lucifer: What do I do to become a chemical health or mental health counselor?
I want to become a chemical health counselor or a mental health counselor or do therapy with people that are recovering from drug addiction or mental health. I want to do this because I have had a history with drugs and depression, and want to help others and give back I guess. I’m in high school, and am going to be graduating in a couple years. I think about other careers doing things I like, like playing music or fixing electronics, but I couldn’t imagine doing either as a career. The more I think of counseling and therapy, it’s something I am passionate about and I know a lot about chemical health and mental health. I talked with the chemical health counselor at my school, we talk every couple weeks, but I told him that this is what I want to do, which I haven’t told anyone else until then, and he was saying that the way he did it was at a University and went for psychology. But he said for psychology, to be able to do anything you have to get a lot of education for it and a higher degree. He had a friend that didn’t get as high a degree as he did and now he can’t really do anything for it, but he’s had other friends do it through just getting the license for counseling, and when you get that, it gives you way more options, and you can do generals at a community college and then go get a license and save a lot of money. So what’s the way he’s talking about by just getting a license? How do I do that? And if that info was misleading, what’s the best way to go for doing this? And how much will school probably cost?

Best answer:

Answer by jannsody
You’re commended for wanting to help others who were in similar situations as yourself. A lot of substance abuse counselors are “in recovery” (from addiction) themselves. For those interested in becoming a licensed addiction counselor, please look into getting the credentials of CAC which stands for Certified Addiction Counselor.

Most CACs (or similar credentials) have a master’s degree such as in counseling or social work (or perhaps psychology, but the two former may get more practical experience, including a clinical internship).

Someone with a master’s degree in social work (MSW) can also become a licensed-clinical social worker (LCSW) and administer psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy (cbt). A LCSW may also open up a private practice, however, usually after getting a lot of experience in the field since private practice is so autonomous. A licensed social worker may get reimbursement from health insurance companies, too.

A person with a master’s degree in counseling needs to do various clinical internships, too, and may apply for reimbursement for patient claims (for therapy). The person would take a licensure examination after getting a passing score for the clinical internships and then get the credentials of LPC or licensed professional counselor (or in some states, “licensed mental health counselor”). I believe that the general consensus is that a LCSW degree may be more versatile than a counseling degree. You may want to speak with both a LCSW and LPC for more information, too.

Most licensed psychologists have a doctorate (PhD or PsyD).

This website has more info re: the various credentials for becoming a licensed addiction professional:

For more info re: counselor certification and state licensure:

General career info: and can search “substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors”, “social workers”, “counselors” or such.

With regard to schooling (for any field), please do *avoid* those private For-profit schools such as devry, ITT tech, strayer, university of phoenix, capella, argosy, grand canyon, aiu, Kaplan, ashworth, pima medical, Everest, stratford career, walden, art institute, concorde career, ecpi, regis, penn foster, ashford, full sail, icdc, Sanford brown, keiser and others. Their course credits usually do ** NOT ** transfer to other schools, even if the for-profit school is regionally accredited as opposed to only nationally accredited.

This consumer site has a lot of negative posts by former students of those for-profit schools, and please heed the students’ warnings: and can search.

Please instead consider the more affordable *community college* (as you’d mentioned) and/or the *state-public university* as long as the program is accredited within the industry. Just an fyi that “American public university” is a for-profit school.

Some community colleges offer an associate (two-year) degree in “human services” (or similar major), and it may allow the student to get his/her “feet wet” in the field as the student usually needs to get a passing score for the clinical fieldwork placements. Another fyi, however, that someone with an associate’s in human services may “only” qualify for a clerical position or some type of “aide” or “assistant”.

If the local community college(s) offers an associate’s in “addiction counseling”, that will require many clinical internship hours, and just to reiterate that a lot of jobs for addiction counselor require a master’s degree.

For U.S. colleges (though please still forgo those for-profit schools):

This site is supposed to have accredited programs in social work education:

For accredited programs in counseling:

You’re probably familiar with the 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The only requirement is having the desire to get sober. There may be “open” AA meetings if there is no drinking problem:

For some common mottos pertaining to those 12-step programs which includes “One day at a time”, “First things first” and “People, places and things”:

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