I found the May/June 2008 issue's special section on education quite relevant to the field of chemical dependency counseling. Don Osborn and Anne Hatcher both stressed the need for professionals with advanced degrees to have more comprehensive education/training placed in their curricula. I could not agree more.
Dealing with adolescents with co-occurring disorders, I have found behaviors in my clients that are plainly observant to me with my extensive training to be elusive to family therapists. Many staff with whom I work are not familiar with family constellations or “normal addictive behaviors” within the drug-dependent family. Though I do not possess a college degree (as of yet), my broad education and training in the AOD field has enabled me to diagnose and treat these clients with special needs.
Although it is important to create national standards for counselors, it is just as important not to disregard the work of paraprofessionals who have comprehensive certification in AOD counseling without a degree. Many counselors move in straight from graduation with little training and are easily frustrated when dealing with this difficult population. Those who have recovered and have been certified appear to know the nature of the beast and often are more effective in the treatment setting.
It is up to us in the field to create a set curriculum of universal standards in training future AOD counselors. Doing so not only will allow us to serve our clients better, it also will demonstrate our importance to others in the behavioral sciences.