Millions of people struggle with addiction to alcohol or drugs. Most need help to stop. That is where a substance abuse counselor comes in. Substance abuse counselors work with recovering drug and alcohol addicts. Settings can vary widely, but the most popular places of employment for substance abuse counselors are inpatient rehabilitation centers, outpatient rehabilitation clinics, hospitals, and private practice. They also frequently work with the families of recovering alcohol and drug addicts, as the addiction affects family members profoundly, as well as the addict.
While substance abuse counseling can be an extremely rewarding profession, it definitely has its difficulties and it is not for everyone. You need a certain type of personality and temperament in order to be a successful substance abuse counselor. You must have a STRONG desire to help others. Recovering addicts are frequently at the lowest point of their lives and they need all the support they can get to reach a better place and move forward in the recovery process. This is also not a “nine to five” job. Recovery knows no clock. An addict can suffer a setback or acute distress at any time of the day or night. In that respect, a substance abuse counselor can be “on call” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
To be a successful substance abuse counselor, you need to be able to stay calm in highly stressful situations. Recovering addicts, because of what they are dealing with, are not always the most emotionally stable people to be around. If a client or a family member is struggling, emotions can often run high. The substance abuse counselor frequently needs to be the “calm force” in the room.
Successful substance abuse counselors need to have a great deal of empathy and compassion and must be able to refrain from judging the mistakes their clients have made in the past too harshly. Getting to the root of what caused a client to engage in such self destructive behavior can often be very painful emotionally, both for recovering addicts and for their family members as well. Establishing trust between the substance abuse counselor, the recovering alcohol or drug addict, and the client’s family members is crucial to having a successful relationship between all parties and to ensure that the counselor is able to do function effectively. No counselor will succeed in aiding a client through the recovery process if a client is not comfortable in opening up to the counselor. This requires listening carefully (often as much to what is NOT being said as to what is being said) and refraining from being judgmental as much as possible. At the same time, the substance abuse counselor needs to be willing and able to offer suggestions as to how the client can change his or her behavior and put positive behaviors in place to try and prevent a relapse of the addictive behavior. The substance abuse counselor must walk a very fine line, and it is not an easy thing to do.
Because of the nature of the work, it is often helpful (but not required) if a substance abuse counselor has personal experience with addiction, either their own addiction or that of a close family member. This will give a counselor a better understanding of what the recovering addict and his or her family members are going through.
The Twelve Core Functions Of Alcohol And Drug Abuse Counseling
The twelve core functions are really the heart and soul of alcohol and other drug abuse counseling. They are of such importance that each core function must be separately addressed under supervision for a minimum of ten hours before anyone can become certified as an alcohol and other drug abuse counselor.
The twelve core functions are:
- Screening: The process by which the client is determined appropriate and eligible for admission to a particular program
- Intake: The administrative and initial assessment procedures for admission to a program
- Orientation: Describing to the client the following: the general nature and the goals of the program to which the client is being admitted; the rules governing client conduct and the infractions that can lead to disciplinary action or dismissal from the program; the hours during which services are available (for outpatient programs); the treatment costs that are the client’s responsibility (if any); and the client’s rights
- Assessment: The procedures by which a counselor or a program identifies and evaluates an individual’s strengths, weaknesses, problems, and needs for the development of an appropriate treatment plan tailored to the individual
- Treatment Planning: The process by which the counselor and the client identify and prioritize problems that need resolution; establish short term and long term goals by way of mutual agreement; and decide on a treatment process and the resources that are to be utilized in order to maximize the chances of a positive end result at the conclusion of treatment
- Counseling: The utilization of special skills to assist individuals, families, or groups in achieving objectives through the exploration of a problem and that problem’s ramifications; the examination of attitudes and feelings; the consideration of alternative solutions, and the making of decisions. This type of counseling may be used with the client as an individual, with the client in a group setting, and with the client’s family members or close friends (either on an individual basis or as part of a group).
- Case Management: Activities that bring services, agencies, resources, or people together within a planned framework of action with the objective of achieving established goals. Liaison activities and/or collateral contacts may be involved.
- Crisis Intervention: Services that respond to a client’s needs during sharp emotional distress and/or physical distress
- Client Education: Providing information concerning alcohol and drug abuse as well as information concerning available services and resources for those who need them
- Referral: Identifying the needs of a client that cannot be met with the services a counselor can provide and assisting a client to utilize resources that can better assist in his or her recovery
- Report and Record Keeping: Charting assessment results and treatment plans, writing reports, notes, discharge summaries or other data related to a client and his or her progress in treatment
- Consultation With Other Professionals Regarding Client Treatment and Services: Conferring with staff or outside professionals to assure the best possible care for clients
Alcohol And Other Drug Abuse Counselor Exam Eligibility Requirements
The International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) is the leading provider of certifications for substance abuse counselors worldwide. The most popular and widely sought after certification that the IC&RC awards is that of alcohol and drug counselor. You are required to take and pass the Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) examination before you may attain this certification. Before you can take this exam, however, you must meet the following eligibility requirements. For your reference the Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) domains that will be referred to throughout this article are as follows:
- Clinical Evaluation
- Treatment Planning
- Service Coordination
- Client, Family, and Community Education
- Professional and Ethical Responsibilities
You may fulfill the work experience prerequisite to sitting for this exam with any of the following combinations of education and or/professional work experience:
- Six thousand hours of supervised work experience specific to the ADC domains OR
- Five thousand hours of supervised work experience specific to the ADC domains coupled with an associate’s degree in a behavioral science OR
- Four thousand hours of supervised work experience specific to the ADC domains coupled with a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral science OR
- Two thousand hours of supervised work experience specific to the ADC domains coupled with a master’s degree in a behavioral science.
Regardless of the type of degree you are seeking to obtain, candidates for the AODA exam must clock two hundred and seventy hours of education related to the ADC domains. These education hours may be earned either as part of or outside of an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree program in a behavioral science. Six of those hours must be specific to counselor ethics.
Candidates will have three hundred hours of supervised work experience specific to the domains. This supervision will include supervision in each of the twelve core functions, with a minimum of ten hours of supervision in each of the core function areas.
Applicants must sign a code of ethics statement or an affirmation statement. By the nature of the profession, alcohol and drug abuse counselors have an extremely vulnerable clientele. You are dealing with people who are quite possibly at the lowest point in their lives and conducting yourself ethically at all times is of the utmost importance on both a personal and a professional level.
Once certified, forty hours of continuing education must be earned every two years in order to keep your certification current. The profession of drug and alcohol counseling is an evolving one. Without continuing education, your counseling expertise runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. The damage irrelevancy in this profession has the potential to cause goes far beyond just hurting your career. In the worst case scenario, it could even jeopardize the overall health and well being, physical, mental, emotional, and psychological, of your clients.
More Advanced Certifications
As you progress in your career, you may find it to your benefit, personally, professionally, and financially, to obtain a higher certification in alcohol and drug abuse counseling. Many alcohol and drug counselors certified by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) go on to obtain the certifications of Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) and/or the certification of Clinical Supervisor (CS). These higher certifications will give you more credibility with clients, show your employer that you are serious about professional advancement and coulld possibly bring in higher earnings for you.
The following prerequisites must be completed before you can take the AADC exam:
You must have two thousand hours of supervised work experience specific to alcohol and drug counseling.
You must obtain a master’s degree in behavioral science with a clinical application as part of the degree requirement. The degree may be from a regionally accredited college or university in the United States or a college or university outside the United States. However, if your degree is from a college or university located outside of the United States, you must complete an additional one hundred and eighty hours of education specific to alcohol and drug counseling. Regardless of the location of the college or university that you obtain your master’s degree from, six hours of your education component must be in the area of counselor ethics
With regards to your supervised work experience, three hundred hours (within the two thousand total hours) must directly relate to the domains. A minimum of ten hours must be spent in each of the core function areas previously described. With regards to the AADC certification, the domains are:
- Clinical Evaluation
- Treatment Planning
- Service Coordination
- Client, Family, and Community Education
- Professional and Ethical Responsibilities
- Research Design, Analysis, and Utilization
- Clinical Supervision
Once all other certification requirements have been met, applicants must sign a code of ethics statement or an affirmation statement. Once you receive AADC certification, you must keep your certification current by earning forty hours of continuing education every two years.
If you reach a point in your career where you have the opportunity to supervise the work of other, junior alcohol and drug abuse counselors, it could well be to your benefit to obtain a Clinical Supervisor (CS) certification. The requirements for eligibility for the CS exam are outlined below:
At the time of application to take the CS exam, you must have a certification in good standing as an ADC, an AADC, a Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP), a Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional (CCDP), or a Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional Diplomate (CCDPD).
You must have ten thousand hours of ADC specific experience plus four thousand hours of ADC supervisor work experience (this may be included as part of the overall ten thousand hours). These hours must include two hundred hours of face to face clinical supervision. Associate degree holders in behavioral science may subtract one thousand hours from this requirement. Bachelor’s degree holders in behavioral science may subtract two thousand hours from this requirement. Master’s degree holders in behavioral science may subtract four thousand hours from this requirement. Regardless of the number of total hours of work experience used toward this requirement, you must have four thousand hours of ADC supervisor work experience and two hundred hours of face to face clinical supervision.
Applicants must sign a supervisor specific code of ethics statement or affirmation statement. Once the CS certification is earned, you must obtain six hours of continuing education every two years. These six hours may be part of the CE hours used towards another certification sponsored by the IC&RC.
IC & RC Member Boards
The eligibility requirements to sit for the Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) certification exam that is required in every state of the United States and in some foreign countries to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor (ADC) is only the minimum requirement set by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). Some of IC&RC’s member boards may have more stringent eligibility requirements to take the exam. If the area you live in and/or plan to do counseling business in has an IC&RC member board, it would be a wise investment of your time to check out that member board’s exam eligibility requirements. For your reference and information, IC&RC’s member boards are listed below:
BY U.S. STATE
Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association
Arizona Board for Certification of Addiction Counselors
Arkansas Substance Abuse Certification Board
California Certification Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
Connecticut Certification Board
Delaware Certification Board
- District of Columbia
District of Columbia Addiction Professionals Consortium
Florida Certification Board
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Certification Board of Georgia
Hawaii Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division
Idaho Board of Alcoholism and Drug Counselor’s Certification
Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Board
Indiana Counselors Association of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Iowa Board of Certification
Kentucky Board of Certification of Drug and Alcohol Counselors
Louisiana Association of Substance Abuse Counselors and Trainers
Maryland Addictions Professional Certification Board
Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certificatio
Michigan Certification Board for Addiction Professionals
Minnesota Certification Board
Mississippi Association of Addiction Professionals
Missouri Substance Abuse Professional Credentialing Board
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, DPH, Licensure Unit
- New Hampshire
New Hampshire Board of Licensing for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professionals
- New Jersey
Addiction Professionals Certification Board of New Jersey
- New Mexico
New Mexico Credentialing Board for Behavioral Health Professionals
- New York
New York Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services
- North Carolina
North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board
Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board
Oklahoma Drug and Alcohol Professional Counselor Certification Board
Pennsylvania Certification Board
- Rhode Island
Rhode Island Board for the Certification of Chemical Dependency Professionals
- South Dakota
Certification Board for Alcohol and Drug Professionals
Texas Certification Board of Addiction Professionals
Vermont Alcohol and Drug Abuse Certification Board
Substance Abuse Certification Alliance of Virginia
- West Virginia
West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals
Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing
BY U.S. REGION OR TERRITORY
- Albuquerque Area
Albuquerque Area Inter-Tribal Council on Substance Abuse Certification Board
- Nashville Area
Nashville Area Substance Abuse Certification Board
- Northern Plains Area
Aberdeen Area Native American Addiction Counselor Certification Board
- Pacific Region (based in Tamuning, Guam)
Pacific Substance Abuse Mental Health Certification Board
- Puerto Rico
Certification Board for Professionals in Addiction and Alcoholism of Puerto Rico, Inc.
- Southwest Region (based in Phoenix, Arizona)
Southwest Certification Board
- Upper Midwest (based in L’Anse, Michigan)
Upper Midwest Indian Council on Addictive Disorders
FOR MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES
- Air Force Substance Abuse Counselor Certification Board
United States Army Medical Command
United States Navy Certification Board
INTERNATIONAL MEMBER BOARDS
Bermuda Addictions Certification Board
Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation
- Costa Rica
National Certifying Commission of Costa Rica
Professional Certification Board of Alcohol/Drug Counselors Germany
- Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Bulgaria
Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Bulgaria Certification Board for Drug Counselors and Prevention Specialists
Life Challenge International Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification Board
Israel Certification Board of Addiction Professionals
Substance Abuse Certification Organization of Malaysia
- Nordic/Baltic Region (based in Reykjavik, Iceland)
Nordic/Baltic Regional Certification Board
The Association of Professionals Specializing in Addiction Counseling
Swedish Certification Association for Alcohol and Drug Counselors
- United Kingdom
United Kingdom Professional Certification Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse