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Certificate in Applied Counselling Studies Specializing in Addictions Counselling

The specialized certificate in Addictions Counselling offered by the Kelowna College of Professional Counselling is geared to trained counsellors and mental health practitioners who wish to add addiction counselling to their scope of practice.

NOTE to those of you just beginning your training: A short certificate program may not cover all areas of competency required for an Addiction Counsellor. Most employers are looking for applicants with a broad range of knowledge, and skills. To be sufficiently prepared for a career in this area of specialization, we suggest you enroll in a Diploma or university program that provides the necessary training.

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The many roles of an Addictions Counsellor

In addition to the clinical competencies demonstrated by professional counsellors and therapists, addiction counselors possess specialized skills needed to treat the spectrum of addictions: Substance addictions include: alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, opioids, and other drugs. Behavior or process addictions include: gambling, internet, gaming, sex, food, exercise, and shopping.

Addiction counsellors are multi-faceted professionals, trained in aspects of recovery: assessment, treatment, management, and relapse prevention. Counselling is conducted individually and/or in group therapy.

KCPC’s specialized certificate in Addiction Counselling emphasizes self-awareness for the counsellor as being an integral part of training. Students are encouraged to examine personal assumptions that can influence their ability to support clients on their path to recovery.

Specialized skills:  The addiction counsellor leads the client through the therapeutic process beginning with a comprehensive assessment to determine the client’s stage of readiness for change, individualized treatment strategies, and relapse prevention. Skill training in this Certificate includes:

  • knowledge of the stages of addiction and recovery;
  • ability to identify factors that contribute to or protect against addiction;
  • ability to apply bio-psycho-social-spiritual models of treatment;
  • knowledge of psychopharmacology and neuroscience applied to the treatment of addiction;
  • educating family and partners on coping with the challenges of the recovery process
  • involvement in community engagement, outreach, and prevention.

Job Duties of an Addiction Counsellor

Here is a list of typical job duties of an Addiction Counsellor working in private practice, hospitals, community clinics, residential treatment centers, group homes, schools, and correctional institutions:

  • create records of each patient's history and charts patient progress during ongoing sessions.
  • assess each patient's stage of readiness for change
  • crisis intervention
  • develop and implement treatment and recovery plans,
  • ensure that treatment goals are being met,
  • attend staff meetings to discuss patient care.
  • consult with other professionals to assess physical and/or mental progress
  • help patients in aftercare programs, addressing day to day recovery and relapse prevention.


Competencies required for Addiction Counselling.

An entry-level Addiction Counsellor must be prepared to assist clients with low-to-moderate levels of emotional, cognitive and behavioral distress due to substance and/or behavioral addiction. While similar in scope of practice to a professional counsellor, an Addiction Counsellor has a broader level of training in the knowledge and skills outlined in the Competency Profile for Addiction Counselling. The profile was developed by the Addictions Counselling Subcommittee of the Federation of Associations of Counselling Therapists - Alberta (FACT-AB) using from data from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

Specialized Certificate for Addiction Counselling:

(Applicants without clinical experience as a mental health practitioner may be required to complete additional coursework to meet the pre-requisites for this Certificate.)

Nine (9) courses are required:

While completing the coursework at KCPC, students are required to volunteer or work in a mental health setting for 15 hours per month.

Graduates of KCPC’s Diploma programs specializing in Professional Counselling, or Psychotherapy, may take the following four specialized electives to earn a Certificate in Addictions Counselling. These electives, combined with the curriculum from the Diploma program, meet competency requirements for entry-level employment in this field. Graduates of this level of training are advised to obtain clinical supervision during their first two years of practice.

Applied Skill Development:

The textbooks, videos and study materials used for this Certificate provide an overview of the basic competencies needed for addiction counselling. These include: theory, skills and resources, and perspectives from both the counselor and the addict. The combination of these key areas of study will have a significant impact on students’ understanding of this area of specialized practice.

The curriculum incorporates evidence-based theories and skill practice specific to the following:
- Ethical, legal and professional issues.
- Cultural diversity in the treatment of addictions.
- Theories of addiction.
- Psychopharmacology applied to clinical practice.
- Neuroscience of addiction.
- DSM-V polyaddictions and co-morbidity
- Individual counselling and relapse prevention strategies.
- Couples, family and group counselling.
- Prevention, evaluation, and assessment.
- Primary prevention psycho-education workshop.
- Individual features of Substance and Behavioral addictions are addressed.

What are the requirements to practice as an addiction counsellor in Canada?

The recognized standard of practice for Addiction Counsellors in Canada includes:

  1. Clinical competence as reflected by specialized training, supervision, ethics, and the skill set outlined by the Competency profile for addiction counsellors. Link to Areas of Competency Profile
  2. Registration and designations with a regulatory college, and/or professional association. (Registration requirements differ province by province.)

As a reminder to those of you just beginning your training: A short certificate program may not cover all areas of competency required for an Addictions Counsellor. Most employers are looking for applicants with a broad range of knowledge, and skills. To be sufficiently prepared for a career in this area of specialization, we suggest you enroll in a Diploma or university program that provides comprehensive training.

The Addictions Counselling specialization through KCPC’s Certificate in Applied Counselling Studies conforms to ethical guidelines and competency standards established by the Ministry of Advanced Education in BC; the Competency Profile for Addictions Counsellors; the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association, (CPCA); Association of Cooperative Counselling Therapists, (ACCT); and the Canadian College of Professional Counsellors and Psychotherapists (CCPCP). For some with previous experience and training or who possess our Diploma in Applied Psychology and Counselling can apply for the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF) Certification 


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