How Can I Become a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor?

A certified alcohol and drug counselor assists alcoholics and drug abusers with conquering their addictions. Find out about typical work tasks for these counselors, as well as educational and certification requirements. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Job Duties Would I Have as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor?

Alcohol and drug counselors help substance abusers defeat addiction. These professionals, also called addiction or substance abuse counselors, work with addicts to develop a treatment plan and help them recognize the causes of their substance abuse.

Working as a certified alcohol and drug counselor, you would help abusers develop a healthy lifestyle and adopt sober coping mechanisms so they can quit using alcohol and drugs. You gauge which clients are suitable for treatment programs, counsel them and develop a continuing recovery plan for after their discharge. You keep a case history on your clients and the status of their recovery. You might also judge the sobriety of your clients by administering Breathalyzer or urine tests. Additionally, you could work with friends and family members of your patients to help them cope with the impacts of substance abuse. Some also run prevention and education programs in the community.

What Education Should I Get?

The education you need to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor depends on state licensing regulations and certification requirements. Check the licensing requirements in the state where you plan on working before choosing your educational program. You might need to earn a degree to become a licensed or certified alcohol and drug counselor. Each state has different licensing requirements for substance abuse counselors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which noted that some states require only that counselors graduate from high school and get certified (www.bls.gov).

What Standards Must I Meet for Certification?

The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) awards three certifications via the National Certification Commission. These include National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC) I and II and Master Addiction Counselor (MAC). There are different education, training, testing and experience requirements for each. Some states let you use the NAADAC certification test to obtain a state license. In states that don't allow that, you need to get a state license prior to taking NAADAC's test for national certification.

For NCAC I certification, you must be a state-licensed alcohol or drug counselor with three years of substance abuse counseling experience and 270 hours of schooling and training in substance abuse and other relevant counseling topics, according to NAADAC. The NCAC II certification requires a bachelor's degree with a concentration on substance abuse counseling from an accredited school, plus a state license, five years of substance abuse counseling experience and 450 hours of schooling and training. To earn MAC certification, you must have attended an accredited school and earned a master's degree in counseling, family therapy, nursing, psychology, social work or another healing arts discipline with a concentration on substance abuse counseling. You also must have a state license, three years of counseling experience and 500 hours of counseling training to get MAC certification.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) also offers certification for alcohol and drug counselors. You need at least a master's degree in counseling plus 3,000 hours of counseling experience to seek certification as a National Certified Counselor (NCC). You must have already earned NCC certification and met other training and experience requirements to seek certification as a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC).

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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