Outreach Center
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Program 3: The Teenage Brain: A World of their Own
Adolescence is a time of enormous brain change and development, particularly in the pre-frontal cortex -- the part of the brain responsible for reason, judgment and self-discipline.


Often long-term problems, such as schizophrenia, drug addiction, and alcoholism show up first in adolescence. Research shows that substance abuse may permanently change the bio-chemistry of the brain and the altered biochemistry maintains the problem.

Career Focus

Addiction Counselor

There are three different levels of professional attainment. Each level requires education and training, supervised clinical experience, and a passing score on the National Addiction Counselor exams. Educational requirements range from specialized training through a master's degree. All levels require state certification. There are many options for employment, including public and private substance abuse facilities, hospitals, psychiatric units, the penal system, not-for-profit faith-based or community organizations, and health departments.

Shirley Beckett, Certification/Education Administrator of the NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals, has seen the best and the most challenging aspects of her field during 32 years as an addictions counselor. Clients are often resistant and unwilling to cooperate with professionals -- many people are mandated by the courts to enter treatment; parents may not be convinced that their teens need treatment. The counselor must not take it personally, must remain objective without being aloof, and allow the individual to grow in treatment and treatment acceptance at his or her own pace. Beckett finds it most difficult to deal with the death of clients suffering diseases that sometimes are an outgrowth of addictions, such as hepatitis C and AIDS. But the rewards of the profession are great: The client who comes back to say, "I made it. Thanks." The family that stays together fighting against the consequences of addiction. And, especially, watching the children of former addicts live clean and sober lives as a result of the changes in the lifestyle and renewed commitment to life of their parents. What keeps Beckett going in this demanding field is the impact of knowing that people DO get well!

Here is a list of resources related to a career in addiction counseling.

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