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Counseling is a broad term that includes marriage and family, addiction, substance abuse, mental health, career, school, grief, trauma, rehabilitation, and more. Counseling is a type of therapy where individuals share their problems with a trained professional in hopes of finding a reasonable solution for a difficult problem.

Being a therapist or counselor can be a rewarding, yet demanding profession. Many of the required skills can learned during your education and training; others you may have attained from different experiences of your life. To be effective, you should be able to place yourself in the role of your client/patient. At the same time, you cannot allow your compassion or sympathy cloud your role as a counselor. A counselor must be able to empathize, listen attentively, and have strong communication skills that comfort the client.

empathy pixOther skills as a counselor include critical thinking skills. Therapists require the ability to extract what is bothering a person using respectful questioning techniques. Without critical thinking skills, you could miss an important behavioral element.

These are just some of the soft skills needed for the profession. Regardless of your chosen degree, how you relate to each person during counseling sessions is as important as your college degree.

Your preferred area of counseling predicates the minimum degree required to perform counseling duties. The only area not demanding a degree,, in certain instances, is an addiction counselor. Some states do not require a degree for addiction counselors. Instead of the degree, however, you should have some training and experience in this field to demonstrate your qualifications.

Is an Associate’s Degree the Minimum Education?

Requirements vary from state to state, but member boards of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) often consider an associate’s degree as the equivalent of 1,000 hours of work experience — half a year out in the field. If you only have an associate’s degree, your employment possibilities will be more limited than graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Your degree options are an Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.). Traditionally, the A.A.S. is for individuals who want to enter the workforce with an entry-level job upon graduation. Students who are planning on advancing to a bachelor’s degree should select the A.S. and A.A. degrees. A.A.S. programs typically have fewer credits that are eligible to  transfer to a baccalaureate program. However, this is not an absolute.

An Associate’s degree from an accredited learning institution is the minimum option for students with their high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED). This degree allows you to commence a career in the field of substance abuse and addictions counseling. Many of these you can take online from the comfort of home.

addictionAn Associate of Applied Science in Addictions/Substance Abuse provides sufficient coursework to seek employment as a counselor. You should be exposed to the pharmacology of different substances, interview skills, and behavioral disorders.

As mentioned, each state dictates its policies and procedures for addiction counselors. We recommend that you verify the experience level and hours of practice needed with your state of employment or planned state of work.

New York is another state where you can be a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) if you have at least a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). CASAC has a list of requirements that applicants must meet. These refer to conduct, competency, education, training, and experience. Equally important, you must pass the International Certification & reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) examination for Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC).

Conclusion

This post addressed the minimum education required for counseling. Unfortunately, individuals not interested in alcoholism, substance abuse or drug addiction counseling will need at least a master’s degree to obtain a license in most states. Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding licensing. These are legally enforced and punishable by law.

If you enter this branch of counseling with a degree at the associate’s level, you will have fewer career choices than if you earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Your state certification board may require that your major must be in addiction studies or equivalent major pertinent to addiction studies.

Additional Resources:

What can I do with a degree in School Counseling?

What can I do with a degree in Rehabilitation Counseling?

Where can I work with a degree in Addiction Counseling?

What is a typical curriculum for a degree in Mental Health Counseling?