Many roles provide a variety of services in addiction treatment. When you seek treatment, you want to be assured that you are being treated by a dedicated professional, but you may not fully understand the education and credential process. To learn more about addiction treatment credentials and what they mean, examine the education requirements for various professionals, the variety of certifications required, and the additional credentials that an addiction worker may acquire.
Educational Requirements for Addiction Treatment
The Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In their post, Why should I choose a career in addictions? they describe the educational requirements for becoming an addiction counselor. As an addict, you may feel reassured to know that your counselor not only has extensive classroom education but has also participated in significant, supervised, hands-on experience.
Formal education is necessary for someone to become an addiction counselor. Some states require counselors in public employment to have a master’s degree; others accept a bachelor’s degree with appropriate counseling courses. With a bachelor’s degree, people often qualify to work as counseling aides, rehab aides,s or social service workers. While some colleges offer a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling, others provide degrees in psychology. In these undergraduate programs, the curriculum often includes techniques of counseling, the study of environmental and psychological causes and effects of drug abuse, and even issues related to behavioral addictions.
To become licensed as a counselor, a master’s degree is often required. This program is typically 60 semester hours and a period of supervised clinical experience. Another predominant role in substance abuse and mental health care is counselors who work with co-occurring conditions, which means a mental health issue that is coupled with a substance abuse disorder. According to the post, Mental Health Counselor Careers, most treatment professionals in this setting have a bachelor’s, master’s, and often a doctorate’s degree. This list of accolades often takes four years of undergraduate study, two years for the graduate degree, and several more years to acquire the doctorate.
Credentials for Addiction Treatment Professionals
To earn a degree in counseling or clinical psychology, one must meet the requirements to work within an addiction treatment center. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of the counselor who governs the practice of mental health counseling. In most cases, you will have to meet the requirements for your state’s certification as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. Most states require counselors to take state exams like the National Counseling Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination to become licensed professional counselors. In addition, professional counselors must also complete a certain number of counseling hours (supervised by a licensed psychologist) and pass written and oral exams. Counseling is a highly regulated field because it involves public health and safety. All programs will require supervised internships and the completion of a very specific type of psychology degree.
Voluntary Additional Certifications
The Association for Addiction Professionals offers a series of voluntary national certifications for professionals who work in the addiction field. Their pamphlet, NCCAP Credentials / Endorsements / Certificate Comparison, describes the commitment that addiction professionals take to help addicts better. In short, some professionals take the following steps to help addicts recover:
- National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I) – Current state-issued certification, high school diploma, 270 hours of education and training in substance use disorder counseling subjects, and 6,000 hours of full-time, supervised experience in counseling
- National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level II (NCAC II) – Current state-issued certification, bachelor’s degree, 450 hours of education and training in substance use disorder counseling subjects, and 10,000 hours of full-time, supervised experience in counseling
- Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) – Current state-issued certification, master’s degree, 500 hours of education and training in substance use disorder counseling subjects, and 6,000 hours of full-time supervised experience in counseling
- National Certified Adolescent Addictions Counselor (NCAAC) – Current state-issued certification, bachelor’s degree, 70 hours of training related to adolescent treatment, and 10,000 hours of full-time supervised experience in working in addiction or mental health dealing with adolescents
- National Endorsed Co-Occurring Disorders Professional – Current state-issued alcohol or drug certification, bachelor’s degree, 70 hours of training related to co-occurring treatment and 10,000 hours of full-time supervised experience working in addiction or mental health dealing with the co-occurring population
Addiction professionals take their jobs very seriously and commit a considerable amount of time, money, and energy to acquire the education they need to help addicts. Many of these professionals also voluntarily commit more time, money, and energy to receive nationally-recognized certifications in specialty areas. In short, you can get and stay clean if you have professional help.