Having a career in the recovery field is one of the more unique jobs one can have that requires a fairly limited amount of training at the outset. As with any job, there are plusses and minuses, but depending on what you’re looking for, a career in treatment can be an extremely rewarding experience.
One thing to know going in, is that unless you have a financial stake in the treatment center, the chances of making a great deal of money in the field of recovery is somewhat slim. Ownership of a rehab, be it either a detox or inpatient treatment center, is definitely a business that has tremendous growth potential. Rehabs are, in fact, one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. However, if you are entertaining an entry-level position (possibly as a tech), you’re probably looking at starting out somewhere in the area of $12-15/hour. Not exactly a living wage, but if you’re frugal, you can live above the poverty line. One factor though, that is a bonus, is that most treatment centers offer a fairly decent benefits package to entry-level employees; usually full benefits after a 90-day probationary period. Many rehabs also offer a 401K savings program as well. If you’re looking for a solid ‘get-well’ job after completing treatment, this is an excellent incentive. Many of us hadn’t all had benefits, etc. during our active addiction, and it’s a great thing to have when rebuilding your life.
But money isn’t everything. Possibly the greatest advantage to working in recovery is the fact that it will keep you accountable and help support your sobriety. The fact that most treatment centers look at newly-sober clients to help staff their facilities is an obvious one: the person with a year or more of clean time is one who will be able to relate to new clients, and their struggles to attain sobriety. Most treatment centers actively and randomly test all staff for drug and alcohol toxicity. If you are in early sobriety, this factor alone just may be the thing that keeps you sober from month to month. We all need accountability, and in this case, it’s built-in.
As far as accreditation, most treatment centers don’t require any specifics upon entry level, but many rehabs will require interns and/or new hires to at least be enrolled in school with an eye towards a CADAC or other degree. This serves several purposes: one, it lends a certain amount of skill and prestige to the staff, and on the other end, having a CADAC will make you much more attractive to future employers, so everyone wins in this case. If you have a CADAC, you can also command a few more dollars an hour in an entry-level position. Most treatment centers require that all employees have a Red Cross First Aid/CPR certification, and in many cases will provide the required training classes at no charge to the employee. Again, this is an excellent thing to take to other future jobs.
One problem that happens over and over in treatment, is that a large number of clients in a given program often feel that they are eminently more qualified to run the said rehab better than it’s being run while they are clients. The truth of the matter is that the real requirements needed to successfully work in treatment rarely have anything to do with your own personal familiarity with the treatment center. There is a certain amount of re-born confidence that take place in the recovering addictive mind; this isn’t always a bad thing…it’s just occasionally unrealistic in terms of staffing. Another issue in terms of in-house staffing is boundaries. Healthy boundaries are one of the most important things that a staff member must have in order to work in treatment, and if you don’t have this, you can count on a very brief career there.
In the end, a career in treatment is an excellent idea, especially in your early stages of recovery, when you need accountability. However, don’t be too take in by the convenience of the job; too many people choose to work in treatment because it’s the first thing that’s offered to them when they are coming out of addiction. You have to weigh your options and motivations seriously before you take a position in treatment. A series of meeting with your counselor and/or therapist will be of great help at this critical juncture in order to make an informed, sound career decision.