Substance abuse and addiction treatment requires the cooperation of a number of different experts across the industry. These people come from a wide range of backgrounds and have varying requirements for certification. They each provide different sets of skills that are necessary for the work they do. However, they all have one thing in common: a desire to help people who are struggling with substance use disorders.

When a person needs help with managing abuse of drugs or alcohol, it can be confusing to understand the addiction treatment industry, and sometimes it can be frightening to seek treatment, especially if the person doesn’t know what to expect. It can be helpful to know a little more about the people in the industry, how they are certified or otherwise qualified, and how they contribute to recovery from substance abuse and addiction.

The different types of experts in addiction treatment provide services that, when combined, offer a comprehensive continuum of care designed to help the person in treatment focus fully on recovery through a program customized to the individual’s needs. Each type of expert is an important element of the full program.

Below is an exploration of who these people are and what they do to help their clients.

Doctors and Nurses

Along with their professional medical training and degrees, certification by a medical board, and state licensing, healthcare providers in the addiction treatment field should be certified as practitioners for addiction treatment. The American Board of Addiction Medicine provides certification for addiction medicine physicians. In addition, the International Nurses Society on Addictions provides certification through their Addictions Nursing Certification Board.

These professionals provide medical support for detox and withdrawal from substances of abuse. They can also prescribe medications used to manage some of the symptoms caused by addiction or withdrawal.

While primary medical doctors may manage medical detox, psychiatrists are often involved in the diagnosis and treatment of co-occurring mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, personality disorders, depression, and anxiety disorders, among others. Aside from education and training in mental health, and a state license to practice, psychiatrists should be certified as an addiction subspecialist through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Therapists and Counselors

In addition to state-specific requirements to counsel patients, therapists and counselors should hold supplementary training in the field of addiction. The American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addiction Disorders provides testing and accreditation for healthcare professionals as Certified Addiction Specialists (CAS).

Psychologists, therapists, and counselors provide various forms of therapy to help the person in treatment learn to manage the mental and emotional aspects of the condition. They provide opportunities for the person to understand the psychological triggers that result in substance use and abuse, and they develop strategies to help clients respond to those triggers in different ways that don’t involve substance use.

Experiential Therapists

These professionals complete training programs that include experience and education both in psychology and in the fields of their specific therapy types. For example, music therapists take music courses and psychology courses, becoming experts in how music can affect the brain. Oftentimes, music therapists have a degree in music therapy from an accredited college or training program. Through this program, they can get certification from an organization like the Certification Board for Music Therapists.

As represented by this example, degrees in the field of study and certification from bodies related to the field are required for these treatment types. This can include testing and accreditation as a Certified Addiction Specialist from the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addiction Disorders. They also must acquire a state license to practice in their field.

These professionals provide different types of therapy that can help clients become more motivated to complete treatment, such as art, music, adventure, or equine-assisted therapy. In addition to improving treatment retention rates, some clients are often able to progress more in specific experiential therapies than they are in traditional therapies.

Treatment Program Directors

People who create and manage treatment programs must have a thorough understanding of addiction treatment and experience providing treatment counseling services. According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, depending on the state requirements, these experts must have a post-graduate degree in social work or similar field and a certain number of hours as an addiction treatment counselor. They must have training in clinical supervision, and they must have passed an exam. They can then get certification from the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, the Association for Addiction Professionals, or a similar body.

The people who manage addiction treatment facilities provide oversight of the programs from an overall therapeutic standpoint. They develop the process that the facility will use to treat addiction, assemble the treatment professionals, and help with customizing the program for the needs of specific individuals.

Nutritionists

nutritional advice and planning These nutrition experts should be Certified Clinical Nutritionists (CCN), which means they have completed training that qualifies them to provide nutritional advice and planning. For nutritionists who specialize in addiction treatment, they can become Certified Addiction Nutritionists through the Center for Addiction Nutrition or similar bodies.

These specialists design the meals that are provided to clients in rehab. Often, people who have been using drugs or alcohol will have nutritional deficiencies due to substance abuse, and healthy, balanced meals help to resolve those issues. In addition, some elements of nutrition can help in managing the addiction itself.

Fitness Trainers

Fitness trainers should have certifications through a fitness training program or college curriculum. In addition, they can become Certified Addiction Coaches through the World Coach Institute.

Exercise has been shown to provide many healing effects for those in recovery from substance abuse, as described in a study in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, and it can help in maintaining long-term recovery. These professionals help clients get into a regular fitness routine that can continue after treatment is over.

Operations Personnel

Operational staff do not necessarily need special certifications to work at an addiction treatment center. That being said, it can be helpful for these staff members to be trained in working and interacting with clients who have issues with substance abuse. In addition, it is helpful for personnel to have experience working in a medical facility.

These personnel manage day-to-day functions in the facility, including caring for grounds, maintenance, and cleaning.

Alumni Coordinators

Alumni coordinators should have an understanding of addiction counseling. It is appropriate for them to be trained and approved as Certified Addiction Specialists through the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addiction Disorders or similar body.

After a treatment program is complete, clients can enter aftercare and alumni programs to maintain their motivation and connection to recovery. These staff members help to plan, coordinate, and manage the events and gatherings for alumni of a treatment program. They stay in touch with former clients and provide additional resources if needed.

Admissions Coordinators

Because they work directly with people who are struggling with addiction and their loved ones, admissions coordinators should be trained in interaction with those struggling with substance abuse and addiction. While they may not need official certification, experience working in a medical treatment center can be helpful. These professionals should be experienced administrators and have a thorough knowledge of financial options for treatment, including extensive knowledge of insurance plans and providers, as they often provide information on how clients can cover the costs of care.

These experts help clients manage every aspect of entering the program. They provide information on payment options, set up and coordinate initial assessments, and perform other administrative tasks regarding admission to the program. They also answer questions about the facility and program, and help clients feel at ease about entering treatment.