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As a young adult, or someone changing careers, it can be intimidating to decide if a certain career path is right for you. The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to decide if you want to join the addictions treatment field. Below is an action plan that will help you become informed so you can make this important decision.

  1. Use SAMHSA’s Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator to find contact information for substance abuse treatment facilities in your area. Contact a variety of local treatment facilities and offer to volunteer. Ask if you can volunteer in different areas of each facility to learn about several facets of the organization, such as case management, intake and assessment, child care services, administration, group education or counseling. Each organization will differ in what they offer, but observing different components of the agency will help you decide if you are better suited to a specific area.

  2. Shadow an addictions professional or a few days. Ask lots of questions and take notes. This will give you the unique perspective of someone who has already made the decision to become an addictions professional.

  3. Conduct interviews with addictions professionals. Interview a variety of people to get a broad sense of the field. If you are interested in becoming a counselor, interview counselors at different types of agencies to see how their jobs are similar or different. Below are some sample questions you could ask.

    • What is your job title?

    • What are your daily duties?

    • How long have you been in the addictions treatment field?

    • Why did you choose this career path?

    • Are you happy with your decision?

    • What advice do you have for someone who wants to enter the field?

    • What is your favorite aspect of your job?

    • What do you dislike about your job?

    • What other jobs in the field have you had? How were they different from your current position?

  4. Use the Directory of Addiction Study Programs on the ATTC Network Web site to find educational facilities in your area that offer degrees and courses in addictions. Be sure to see what is required for each program and how long they are.

  5. Visit the Web site to find distance education opportunities that relate to addiction.

  6. Use the Certification Info portion of the ATTC Network Web site to find information about the certification and licensing requirements of your state. Contact the agency in your state directly to learn more.

  7. Listen to the testimonials and watch the Imagine Who You Could Save video highlighted on this Web site.

  8. Take the Career Finder Assessment at the Office of Science Education’s LifeWorks Web site.