Job Description for an Addiction Psychologist

Addiction psychologists are also known as substance-abuse or behavioral-disorder psychologists. They offer advice to people who have alcohol, drug and other addictions. They may also treat behavioral issues like eating disorders. Addictions psychologists can provide treatment and offer support so that clients may recover from their addictions, or change their behaviors and lead healthier lifestyles.

Addiction Psychologist Job Duties

An addiction psychologist performs many different job functions throughout the day. They evaluate their client’s mental health and physical wellness, analyze addictions and behavioral problems, and determine how open a client is to different treatment interventions. The psychologist will work to develop treatment plans and goals, which may include identifying addictive patterns and behaviors. Clients may work with their addiction psychologist to develop the skills necessary to overcome their addictive behaviors. Addiction psychologists will also work on identifying habits or behaviors that may interfere with recovery.

The largest percentage of addiction psychologists work in outpatient mental health and substance abuse clinics, closely followed by residential treatment centers. Others work in local, state and private hospitals.

Addiction Psychologist Education Requirements

Becoming a clinical psychologist requires a doctoral degree from an accredited college or university that has a program approved by the American Psychological Association (APA). Licensing, the requirements for which vary state to state, is necessary.

The Society for Addiction Psychology, a division of the American Psychological Association, recently developed a certification program for addiction psychology (AP). As of July 2020, licensed psychologists can apply for the credential. Although certification is not a legal requirement, it can enhance employment options.

You do not have to be a clinical psychologist to be an addiction therapist or counselor. Clinical social workers, licensed mental health counselors and master's-level psychologists can get education in the specialty of addiction psychology through university coursework and workshops offered through professional organizations.

A Family Affair

As explained on the website of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, family therapy can be beneficial to people in recovery. Addiction psychologists work with their patients' family members to teach them about how addictive behaviors affect the family. An addiction psychologist may work with family members to provide them with strategies to cope with the side effects of addictive behaviors; they also teach family members techniques for living with a relative in recovery. The duties of an addiction psychologist also include referring clients to job placement resources or support groups.

Group Counseling

Many addiction psychologists focus on group counseling in addition to traditional one-on-one counseling. These sessions may focus on 12-step programs, which help clients develop coping strategies for the challenges they face on a daily basis. Group counseling offers addicts an outlet for sharing their addiction and struggles with others who have similar experiences. The role of the psychologist in these meetings is to serve as a facilitator and to help clients by offering them support.