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A Holistic Approach to Addiction Counseling

Q&A with Dr. James Siebert, Ph.D.

“Perhaps the most important ingredient is the counseling relationship,” says Dr. James Siebert, Program Director of Beal University’s online addiction counseling and mental health programs.”

Addiction counselors play a vital role in empowering individuals to overcome addiction, regain control of their lives, and achieve long-term recovery. Dr. James Siebert has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and has 45 combined years of executive, administrative, clinical, and academic experience in the field. Dr. Siebert’s background extends to work in the areas of mental health, culture-based drug treatment, cross-cultural counseling, and end-of-life care in Chicago, San Francisco, and Calcutta. Additionally, he previously served as Clinical and Executive Director of a non-profit Hawaiian drug treatment program on O`ahu, Hawaii.

He discusses how Beal University addresses addiction issues and provides students with a pathway to an addiction counseling career.

“The definition of addiction is “the continued use despite adverse consequences.”

What is the current scope of addiction and substance abuse?

“Through the decades I have witnessed the ongoing surgency of many substances due in part to the technological advances in the refinement, synthesis, and manufacture of drugs. Let me now clarify that when the topics of addiction and abuse are addressed, most of the focus is on nicotine, alcohol, and illegal substances. However, our concern must now include pharmaceuticals, steroids, and sports-enhancing drugs. In addition, behaviors we identify as behavioral addictions such as compulsive gambling, eating disorders, compulsive internet use, sexual addiction, and compulsive shopping, etc. are creating a whole other set of problems. To recall part of the definition of addiction is “the continued use despite adverse consequences.”

How does Beal University address addiction issues?

“To deal with addiction issues, Beal University developed three accelerated, online programs in addiction counseling and one in mental health. First, let me identify our diploma program. This program is intended to provide students with an academic foundation and counseling services. It is a 14-month online program where students will learn and apply theories of addiction, substance assessment, and counseling techniques. Upon completion of the program, students will have the necessary courses to sit for the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) examination in Maine.

Beal’s accelerated associate degree is a 20-month online program intended to provide students with general education classes in addition to addiction and human services courses to prepare for a career in addiction counseling. The accelerated bachelor’s degree program is a 42-month online program that prepares the graduate to assess the needs of clients and plan and implement programs and services. For individuals seeking careers in clinical mental health counseling or related counseling roles, Beal also offers a 22-month online master’s program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

I must mention that the associate and bachelor’s programs are full degree programs, which means students can apply directly to any of the addiction counseling programs. Students can also complete and then transfer into the next credentialing program.”

“Beal University supports the development of culturally competent addiction counselors.”

What approach do Beal University’s counseling programs adopt?

“These accelerated, online programs have adopted a holistic approach to counseling which attends to clients’ thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Understanding that addiction studies is both a science and a profession, the programs also focus on developing students’ experiences, potential, and personal growth. By integrating theory, research, and application skills, including critical thinking skills into course lesson plans, students are better prepared to analyze, evaluate, critique and synthesize information.

These skills are extremely valuable when working with clients from various cultural backgrounds. Beal University supports the development of culturally competent addiction counselors by helping students adapt traditional theories and techniques to cultural beliefs and values and assess personal assumptions and biases.”
What are the pathways to becoming a certified addiction counselor?

“There are no specialized concentrations within the counseling programs. They are designed to qualify students to meet the requirements to sit for the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) exam in Maine as I mentioned earlier. Passing this exam allows you to pursue employment as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor in an agency setting. To be eligible to practice as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor (LADC), the applicant must pass an examination, complete documented supervised experience as a certified alcohol and drug counselor and possess an associate or bachelor’s degree in clinically based behavioral science or addiction counseling.
As an Addiction Counselor, you can counsel and advise individuals with alcohol, tobacco, drug, or other dependency problems. You may counsel individuals, families, or groups, or engage in prevention programs.”

What qualities are essential for aspiring addiction counselors?

“I must add that if you wish to be an addiction counselor, part of your journey must be the work you do on your own development. There is much research now highlighting that perhaps the most important ingredient is the counseling relationship. Whatever reasons for choosing this path, the relationship can be subtle and complex. We can teach you the theories and techniques and some solid counseling skills, but the understanding of the nature of the counseling relationship is imperative and your presence within that counseling encounter is of prime importance. How do you convey trust, warmth, empathy, compassion? One theory holds that self-acceptance is one of the most valuable gifts a counselor can give a client. How would you do this?

After many years in the field, I can tell you it has been most rewarding to see others grow and change the quality of their lives.”

Take the next step

Is a rewarding career in Addiction Counseling right for you? The best way to see if Beal is right for you is to contact us. We can get you the answers you need about our online addiction counseling degree programs, so you can make the right choice for your future. Complete this short form to request more information. Afterward, a friendly Beal Career Advisor can answer questions, guide you to our virtual tour, and get you helpful financial aid information.

For immediate questions, call 207-307-3900