Working in Addiction Counselling After Community Support Worker College

Addiction causes a cascade of destructive consequences—from personal physical harm and illness, to high health care costs, to family devastation, to community crime and violence, to death.

Take alcohol addiction, for example. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction reported 77,000 hospitalizations entirely caused by alcohol in 2015-2016. That's more than the 75,000 hospitalizations we had for heart attacks in the same year.

Alcohol also takes a very high financial toll on Canadians—some estimates say $14.6 billion a year, broken down into health care, law enforcement, and disability claims.

After alcohol, Canada's most commonly consumed drugs are cannabis, crack/cocaine, hallucinogens, ecstasy, and pharmaceuticals. In many cases, youth aged 15-24 are leading the way in abuse of these substances.

What does the addiction picture look like for Manitoba? A recent report from CBC news reveals opioid use has reached epidemic proportions in Winnipeg, while crystal meth and cocaine have become a growing problem as well.

The province as a whole has a higher drug abuse rate than the Canadian national average.

Never have effective addiction treatment and recovery programs been more important. These services save lives, help families heal, and give people a second chance to become productive, happy, healthy community members.

Many of our students in community support worker training are inspired to make a positive difference as addiction counsellors. Is this the right path for you?

Let's take a closer look at what this career involves, and how to get started.


What Does an Addiction Counsellor Do?

Addiction counsellors guide people with drug abuse problems toward recovery, by helping them make healthy lifestyle changes. Counsellors develop and deliver rehabilitation programs, teach coping strategies, and often work closely with families in crisis.

Community support worker training introduces students to the symptoms and effects of addiction, and teaches interviewing and counselling skills used in the rehabilitation process.

Addiction counsellors talk through their clients' fears, doubts, challenges, and future goals—and help them stay on track during the rehabilitation process.

Key responsibilities in this role include:

  • conducting assessments
  • teaching behavior modification techniques
  • connecting clients to support groups and 12-step programs
  • designing personalized treatment plans that reflect each clients' strengths, needs, and goals
  • educating family members on addiction and recovery
  • referring clients to other health care professionals (like physicians and psychiatrists)

The primary goal for addiction counsellors is to provide safe, confidential, respectful, and compassionate care—leading each client toward a lifelong commitment to sobriety.


Where do Addiction Counsellors work?

A number of organizations hire addiction counsellors. The most obvious are addiction treatment centres, like the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba. However, other types of community organizations also hire people with addiction recovery training, including halfway houses, youth centres, and shelters.


What Special Knowledge & Skills do Addiction Counsellors Need?

Addiction recovery is often a long and rocky road. If you're hoping to become an addiction counsellor after community support worker college, you'll need to develop a specific set of skills and characteristics, including:

  • an understanding of how addiction impacts individuals and families
    (addiction as an illness, not a weakness)
  • common symptoms and signs of addiction
  • common obstacles to addiction recovery
  • excellent communication skills (the ability to build rapport, establish trust, and put others at ease)
  • highly empathetic and non-judgemental
  • patient and committed to the recovery process
  • thick skin
  • ability to persevere, despite setbacks and disappointments 
  • strong passion for helping people and families afflicted by addiction


First Steps: Earning your community support worker diploma

If you believe working as an addiction counsellor is your true calling, your first step is to earn a quality community support worker diploma. CSW programs give students a grounding in essential knowledge and skill areas, including:

  • psychology and sociology
  • mental health disorders
  • how the local community service system works
  • counselling and interview techniques
  • supporting people from diverse backgrounds
  • mentoring and coaching strategies
  • the impact of addiction on individuals and society

It takes 11 months to complete community support worker training, which includes a 4-week internship. From there, you can continue to develop your skills (and career opportunities) with a certificate in addiction counselling.

Most certificate programs require post-secondary training and work experience—like this example here, from the Canadian Addictions Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF).

Ready to take that first step and learn more about CSW training? Looking for a reputable community support worker college in Winnipeg?

We recommend talking with an Admissions Advisor to understand how the program works, CSW career options, and whether this path is right for you.

Chat live with an Advisor right now. Or click below to explore the CSW program and request more information. We're here to help!

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