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Can a Felon Become an Addiction Counselor?

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When it comes to getting a job after their release from prison, felons find it challenging.  Jobs they once had are lost and careers may be gone.

Felons may think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

They will have to be willing to start a different career.

This blog post will address the issue of whether a felon can become an addiction counselor.

  • What is an Addiction Counselor?
  • What Education/Training Does an Addiction Counselor Need?
  • How Much Does an Addiction Counselor Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Supporting a Felon in Becoming an Addiction Counselor


What is an Addiction Counselor?

An addiction counselor is a person trained to give advice to people who suffer from alcoholism drug addiction, or eating disorders. They provide treatment in support to help the person recover from an addiction.

An addiction counselor works in a variety of settings such as mental health centers, community health centers, hospitals, and other outpatient clinics.

The duties of an addiction counselor includes the following:

  • Evaluation of a person’s addiction, mental and physical health, and readiness for treatment
  • Assists a person in developing treatment goals and plans
  • Reviews and recommends treatment options
  • Health acres and develop skills in behavior is essential in recovering from their addiction
  • Works with a person to identify behaviors or situations that may prevent their recovery
  • Teaches a person and their family about addiction and helps them develop coping strategies
  • Refers a person to other resources for additional services

There are certain skills important to be successful as an addiction counselor:

  • Compassion and caring to help people deal with the stress of their addiction
  • Listening skills to allow a person to share the difficulties they face in their addiction
  • Patience to deal with the emotions of a person with a severe addiction
  • Communication skills to be able to share vital information with a person and their family
  • Knowledge of various conditions and effective treatment options
  • Organizational skills to be able to keep up with the necessary paperwork created in working with addictions
  • Effective time management skills important in operating on a hectic schedule in a stressful environment

What Education/Training Does an Addiction Counselor Need?

The basic educational requirements for an addiction counselor consists of a high school diploma or a GED.

Typically, a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is required for most work in the field of addiction.

For anyone interested in becoming an addiction counselor, it is recommended they contact the state in which they intend to live for exact requirements.

In order to become a licensed addiction counselor, all states require a master’s degree and 2000 to 4000 hours of supervised clinical experience.

Not all states require a degree that typically applicants will have to pass the state exam to become licensed.

Anyone wanting to become an addiction counselor but who does not hold a degree is required to complete 270 hours of appropriate coursework.

An applicant must also complete 300 hours of supervised experience at an accredited school or college.

Training must be provided by a qualified credentialed counselor.

In order to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC), they will need at least an associate’s degree and all of the necessary supervised clinical hours.

How Much Does an Addiction Counselor Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately 351,000 addiction counselors.  This occupation is expected to show a 22% growth by 2031.

The average salary for an addiction counselor in 2021 was $48,520 annually.

Geographic location, certification, experience, and specialization could have a significant impact on these earnings.  An addiction counselor on the East or West coast as well as in the Southwest region of the U.S. typically receives a higher salary than for one in other areas.

An Opportunity for Felons?

While the requirements for felons becoming an addiction counselor differ somewhat depending on the state, typically, there are certain important factors.

These criteria will be considered as to whether a crime relates the occupation of an addiction counselor:

  • Nature and seriousness of the crime
  • Relationship of the crime to the purposes of an addiction counselor
  • Extent to which an addiction counselor license might offer for further criminal activity
  • Relationship of the crime to the duties and responsibilities of an addiction counselor
  • Extent and nature of past criminal activity
  • Age when the felony was committed
  • Amount of time since last criminal activity
  • Amount of time since release from incarceration
  • Conduct and work history before and after the conviction
  • Evidence of rehabilitation
  • Other evidence of fitness, including letters of recommendation from law enforcement officials and employers

In order to be successful in their pursuit of becoming an addiction counselor, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background.  Lying about their conviction will prevent them from becoming an addiction counselor.

It is important to be honest in filling out an application for certification.  If a felony isn’t disclosed but found on doing a background check, this constitutes fraud and is a punishable crime which would require an attorney and could result in their being sent back to prison.

They are already working with the often negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming an addiction counselor.

Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Supporting a Felon in Becoming an Addiction Counselor

Families of felons who want to pursue a goal of becoming an addiction counselor, encourage your loved one and support their efforts to live an honest life, change their lifestyle, and keep their dreams alive.

They have made mistakes and have served time, but they have paid the consequences for their past actions.  They are not defined by their crime.

It is time for them to move forward and live an honest life.  They can make a good employee.

Your family member is worth the effort, if they are sincere in their desire to become an addiction counselor.

Help them realize their ambition no matter how difficult the road might be.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become an addiction counselor with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become an Addiction Counselor?”

  1. Going back too school for addiction licensing, Had alcohol related felonies, 1 major, 2 minor, Twenty years ago, I’ve had some good stuff, And redemption, We’re quarantined!!!!, For goodness sake, 9 times tuh get too heaven?, Maybe, We can win.

  2. I became a felon in 1998 and i would like to presude a carrer as a drug and aalcohool counsuler but i dont know where to exponge my record can you please help me

  3. I have a felony for domestic violence but how a gentle men said don’t want to invest time and effort to find no place who hires felons.

  4. I am a felon and am a substance use counselor in Washington State. I had to jump through a few hoops to get it but if it is worth it to you then you can get it done.

  5. I am currently in College to attain my B.S. in Psychology (in addictions) In the state of Iowa the IBC; Iowa Board of Certification does not perform a background check. To be certified as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist. Every state has different policies regarding licensing and felonies. There are multiple factors to consider when determining if obtaining licensure is possible. That being said, the type of felony, amount of time in rehabilitation, Licensing with contingencies-having someone monitoring your work as an ongoing accountability and the type of licensing. It’s a good idea to start building strong relationships early on in your education and work experience. Letters of recommendation can play a major role in your ability to network and obtain jobs down the road. Strong recommendation letters can help speak to your character and your ability to meet the requirements of the job.

  6. [email protected]. l want to become a substance Abu counselor i have48 college credit hours in psychology. Violent crimes on my record. But i want to persue my dream and help people with substance abuse issues. In texas do you know what i can do to achieve this.

  7. I also have a felony conviction in federal court…conviction is 14 years old for drugs and guns…since I’ve been home I worked for a living and went to college…got my degree in hand services this past may and have not found any positive information regarding getting licensed for addiction counseling…it seems to be a really gray and vague area…so far it seems like a situation where you have to know someone who will write a letter of recommendation and help get you in somewhere… I am currently volunteering at a homeless shelter for veterans doing case management and group counseling for free…this way I am getting hours in which are verifiable…feel free to email me … networking is always good

  8. I didn’t get if you were saying, yes, as a felon you could be a substance abuse counselor or if you were saying, a felon could only be a substance abuse counselor if their record was expunged?

  9. I’m in the same situation i want to become a substance abuse counselor ..I have a felony..and i know it will hinder me..I’m scared if i go to school and complete the degree i won’t be able to use it..i have one felony thats 17 years old and one thats nearly 6 i have stayed away from trouble ..which being said i was attacked and defended myself and since i had a old assault on my record from years ago i was charged as the aggressive one..during the sentencing the lady stated she apologize nd didnt want to send me to jail ..im sure the jury probably thought i threatened her to say that..years later i saw her out..she embraced me apologize again..and said she was so sorry for putting me thru That..i cried i told her my career is destroyed i was in school to become a rn..she stated i am so sorry..all i want is to accomplish wat i started..


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