Let’s Be Counselors

Let’s get this out of the way: I know people who have been helped immeasurably by AA and its offshoots, so I’m not trying to start a fight by posting an article about how the science behind AA is nonexistent.

I am saying that JESUS WHAT THE FUCK: 

There is no mandatory national certification exam for addiction counselors. The 2012 Columbia University report on addiction medicine found that only six states required alcohol- and substance-abuse counselors to have at least a bachelor’s degree and that only one state, Vermont, required a master’s degree. Fourteen states had no license requirements whatsoever—not even a GED or an introductory training course was necessary—and yet counselors are often called on by the judicial system and medical boards to give expert opinions on their clients’ prospects for recovery.

Mark Willenbring, the St. Paul psychiatrist, winced when I mentioned this. “What’s wrong,” he asked me rhetorically, “with people with no qualifications or talents—other than being recovering alcoholics—being licensed as professionals with decision-making authority over whether you are imprisoned or lose your medical license?

“The history—and current state—is really, really dismal,” Willenbring said.

That’s kind of terrifying.

I am biased in favor of the learnings, I will admit. I want to know where somebody went to school if they’re giving me medical advice. I look up my doctors and my family’s doctors online and pester my parents about the quality of the care they get, because I know from bitter experience how hard it is to get decent care even from people with sterling credentials. I am a doctor snob. I am picky about these things.

With mental health care, it is a goddamn crapshoot ALREADY, and that’s with the credentials. So throw in counselors who have no education whatsoever, and this seems like a prime opportunity for scammers to get away with shit. Or for well-intentioned people with no training to make mistakes in a field where it seems mistakes could be very dangerous.


3 thoughts on “Let’s Be Counselors

  1. So you get in trouble with the law as a result of a genuine mental disorder and the judge is empowered to entrust your rehabilitation and, by extension, quite possibly the entire rest of your life to someone who needs no more qualification than having spent a significant portion of their life getting bombed.

    Can’t imagine why our recidivism rate remains quite so high.

  2. It seems to me that you’re reacting to counseling requirements (which pertain therapeutic settings such as therapy, rehab, and intensive outpatient programs). AA is not counseling, nor does it have any leaders. It is a place to share “experience, strength and hope that we may solve our common problem,” not a substitute for professional help.

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