Substance use disorder counseling, also called addiction counseling, is a rapidly growing field offering a variety of career opportunities. Entering this profession requires specialized training, and there are several different levels of certification available, depending on your education level.
Each state has boards that offer credentialing, and there are opportunities for certifications to carry over across state lines through the Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) credential, conferred by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). The Florida Certification Board (FCB), for example, offers the Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) credential. Since the FCB is a member of the IC&RC, if someone from Florida with CAC status moves to another state, the process of gaining certification from a board in the new state would be simpler, provided that this board is also a member of the IC&RC.
The CAC is the FCB’s most basic credential for people who hold a high school diploma or who have passed the General Education Development (GED) tests. Higher-level certifications offered by the FCB include Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), for individuals with a bachelor’s degree, and the Certified Masters Level Addiction Professional (MCAP), for those who have a master’s degree.
Training programs such as the University of Florida’s Online Graduate Certificate in Addiction and Recovery can help you gain the knowledge you need to go on to pursue certification.
FCB-certified addiction counselors and addiction professionals work alongside clinicians to help develop and implement treatment plans for patients. They can also administer some substance use disorder services, formerly called substance abuse services, depending on the certification level, and take part in case management, professional communication, and community education.
To show what to expect from the certification process, the requirements for Florida Certification Board’s Certified Addiction Counselor program are given below as an example. Certification requirements (and which duties certified addiction counselors and certified addiction professionals can perform) vary by state. Be sure to research the rules in your desired state of practice before pursuing certification.
How to Become a Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC): Example from the FCB
Individuals must demonstrate competency in these six areas of addiction counseling performance:
- Planning and evaluation
- Prevention education and service delivery
- Community organization
- Public policy and environmental change
- Professional growth and responsibility
The process begins with the Certified Addiction Counselor online application. Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for the exam and pursue CAC status in the state of Florida.
Hold a high school diploma, GED, or higher degree.
Have related work experience within the last five years. This requirement varies depending on the individual’s level of formal education:
- High school diploma/GED — 6,000 hours
- Associate’s/vocational degree — 5,000 hours
- Non-related (see guide for fields listed as “related”) bachelor’s degree or higher — 5,000 hours
- Related bachelor’s degree or higher — 4,000 hours
- Related master’s degree or higher — 2,000 hours
Have 300 hours of supervised work experience with at least 10 hours of supervision for each of the performance areas listed above.
Have 270 hours of training specifically allocated as follows:
- Clinical evaluation — 25 hours
- Treatment planning — 15 hours
- Counseling – 30 hours
- Case management and referral — 10 hours
- Client, family, and community education — 10 hours
- Documentation — 10 hours
- Ethical and professional responsibilities — 30 hours
- Understanding addiction/treatment knowledge — 70 hours
- Application to practice/professional readiness — 70 hours
Provide 3 professional letters of recommendation.
Applicants take the same exam administered for the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor credential.
Have a clean criminal history for a minimum of 3 years prior to application.
Code of ethics
Be familiar with and sign a commitment to the FCB Code of Ethical and Professional Conduct.
Payment of fees
Pay a $150 application fee and $185 testing fee, which is not required until applicant is approved to take the examination. Once certified, yearly renewal fees apply.
All Certified Addiction Counselors must pursue 20 hours of relevant continuing education annually.
Pay $100 by June 30 of each year. A $50 late fee is assessed if the fee is paid between July 1 and July 31.
For people who want to go on to certified addiction counselor programs, academic training, such as the University of Florida’s online Graduate Certificate in Addiction and Recovery, provides an excellent opportunity to develop critical knowledge of substance use disorder treatment. Click here to learn more or explore another level of certification in Florida: the Certified Addiction Professional designation.
Article last updated 5/5/2017: Please check the Florida Certification Board website to confirm the most current requirements. http://flcertificationboard.org.