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Treatment Industry Career Paths

The treatment of alcohol and drug abuse is a team effort that consists of many professional and laypersons working together for a common goal.  Within the industry, there are many rewarding careers from which to choose, with varying responsibilities and dynamics involved. Some of the career paths will place a professional in direct contact with those individuals suffering from the disease of addiction, while others are behind the scenes, but no less important.

When you are considering a career in the drug and alcohol treatment industry, keep in mind your skills, abilities and your personal history concerning drug abuse.  For instance, if you are a recovering addict yourself, you may find that counseling others in the same position that you were once in is a significant calling in your life.  If you have family members who have suffered from addiction, you may be able to offer expertise in any number of career paths.  If you have a love for holistic lifestyle choices, you may be interested in alternative therapy as a career choice.

Abuse Counselor

A drug and alcohol abuse counselor is an individual who works directly with the patient suffering from alcohol and drug addiction.  The work might be conducted on a one-on-one basis with the patient, or it can also occur in a group setting.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these individuals generally have a strong desire to help individuals overcome specific challenges in their lives.

A person who chooses this career path will often work with the families of the addicted individuals as well, offering guidance and advice to help the families cope with their loved one’s disease while teaching them the best ways to interact with the afflicted family member.

A drug and alcohol abuse counselor will obtain training in the development of individual treatment programs and modalities that are tailored to the specific needs of each patient.

Addiction Therapist

A clinical psychologist is a mental health professional who works with individuals to help determine why they behave in specific patterns.  In the drug and alcohol industry, psychologists can work in a residential or other inpatient facility as well as in an outpatient clinic.  Rather than simply offering guidance to family members and the afflicted individual, a clinical psychologist is primarily concerned with diagnosing an addiction and setting up a specific treatment plan, which may include sessions with a trained drug and alcohol counselor in addition to sessions with the psychologist.

A psychologist does not generally have the power to prescribe medications; however, they often work in tandem with medical professionals such as doctors or nurse practitioners to combine the mental health and medical aspects of treatment. There are a couple of places in the United States, including Louisiana and New Mexico, where clinical psychologists can prescribe medication provided they complete a specialized course in psychopharmacology and pass a specific exam for licensing.

Rehabilitation Clinician

A clinician is a healthcare professional who works in the field, rather than in a laboratory conducting research.  Anyone who works “hands on” with patients is considered to be a clinician, including:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Phlebotomists (the folks who draw blood or other fluids for drug testing)
  • Physician’s assistants
  • Nurse practitioners

Within the drug and alcohol recovery process, there are many situations that require specialized medical attention.  Working in a rehab facility, either inpatient or outpatient, as a clinician might mean that you are on staff to handle minor medical emergencies in an upscale residential facility, or that you tend to the immediate physical needs of an individual suffering the debilitating effects of detoxification and withdrawal.

Addiction Treatment Caretaker

Within a drug rehab facility, there are certain rules that must be followed by each resident of the home or hospital.  A caretaker is responsible for helping the residents maintain these rules.  Sometimes, they may work in an administrative capacity by distributing mail, monitoring phone activity and making sure that each individual knows where they are supposed to be and when they should be there.

Other times, they may work in a more direct manner for treatment purposes.  A caretaker might help someone who is disabled, either from excessive drug or alcohol abuse or other reasons, to bathe, wash their hair or otherwise care for themselves in a manner that will boost their confidence and help them progress in their treatment program.

A caretaker might be an RN or an LPN (licensed practical nurse), or they might be a layperson who has received special training.  The amount of education and training one receives will determine the level of authority and responsibility one has within the hospital setting.

Nutritionist and Dietitian

In many cases, an individual who has suffered from the disease of addiction has taken great care to do himself harm over the course of time. He may have paid little attention the needs of his body past the need to satisfy his disease.  These individuals often come to a rehab facility undernourished, malnourished or with serious medical problems.  What they eat and drink will play a role in their healing and treatment progress.

It is the job of a nutritionist to plan the meals for individuals and groups who are living with addiction. Dietitians and nutritionists are specifically trained to create meal plans for the ill or infirmed, as well as the healthy, to ensure that they receive the right nutrition in the correct amounts to foster recovery of mind and spirit.

In the case of eating disorder treatment, nutritionists play a pivotal role in working with psychologists and medical doctors to help someone suffering from anorexia or bulimia achieve a healthy goal weight.  For an individual suffering from compulsive or binge eating, a strict, healthy diet can mitigate the damage done to the heart and arteries caused by obesity.  Regardless of the type of eating disorder, a trained nutritionist or dietitian can be instrumental in recreating good habits and health.

Motivational Speaker

Once an individual has maintained a life free of drugs and alcohol, it is possible to harness those experiences and help others.  Motivational speakers are individuals who have a specific ability to lead a group of people toward a vision.  Whether the person speaks to schoolchildren as a means to encourage them to not use drugs, or speaks to others who are currently facing a recovery or treatment program for their own addictions, a motivational speaker shares their life experience with others.

To be a great motivational speaker, one must have the ability to effectively communicate ideas to an audience, engage the audience through interactive participation, and entertain with words and actions.  Shyness has no place in the motivational realm; a great personality and a deep desire to establish oneself as a role model to be emulated can make all the difference.

Administrative Personnel

As with any business, a recovery center must pay the bills.  Someone must be in charge of making sure that the residents are paying their charges, insurance claims are filed on time, the staff is paid their wages and salaries, and that every grant available as been applied for with due diligence.

Administrative personnel in a treatment center never lack for something to do.  There are many individuals who excel at this kind of work and desire to help those in recovery, but may not have a knack for counseling or caretaking.  This is a great way to assist with the treatment program while specializing in the task-oriented work.

Administrative positions in a rehab setting might include:

  • Executive director
  • Secretary
  • Billing clerk
  • Insurance billing agent
  • Medical record coder
  • Grant writer
  • Receptionist

Some of the positions mentioned here require licensing by the state, while others do not.  Each one of them performs an integral part of the inner workings of an effective drug and alcohol treatment center.

Alternative Therapist for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Today’s modern treatment center takes many forms.  Many centers have discovered the benefits of holistic and alternative approaches to drug and alcohol treatment and offer several therapy modalities to their residents.

Working in the drug and alcohol treatment industry is not limited to psychologists, doctors and nurses.  You might find a rancher at a facility with an equine-assisted therapy program.  These individuals undergo special training that helps them teach others how to communicate effectively with horses; these lessons can then be transferred to how those suffering from addiction can accept aspects of their lives over which they have no control, as well as how non-verbal communication affects our lives.

Horses are not the only alternative therapy, however. Do you have an interest or experience in the art of yoga?  Many facilities now provide yoga classes and dedicated time to practice within their daily schedules.  Art therapy and music therapy are also beneficial in many treatment settings.  Someone who has experience or training in various art and music techniques might be in a position to offer lessons or encouragement to those undergoing treatment.

No matter what your personality, expertise and talents, finding a position within the drug and alcohol treatment field will open doors to success and a means to help others find a future as bright as yours.