Abuse Counselor Certification

Abuse counselors work in private practices and medical settings.
i Andrea Morini/Digital Vision/Getty Images

While men are 2.2 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 1.9 times more likely to have a dependence on drugs, substance abuse can affect women more severely, according to a 2010 study published in "Psychiatric Clinics of North America." Female counselors looking to help other women break the cycle of substance abuse can earn certification as an abuse counselor. Certification provides counselors with additional know-how and legitimacy in the field.


Certified abuse counselors may be a formally-trained counselor or therapist who wishes to reach a niche audience of substance abusers. They also may work in a setting where they come into contact with substance abusers regularly, such as in a corrections facility or in a hospital. Counselors go through a certification program to gain the special skills and knowledge needed to work with substance abuse clients. Certification comes from a variety of different organizations, such as state-level associations like the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, and national-level organizations, such as the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. Some state health departments provide abuse counselor certification.


Certification providers may sponsor different levels of certification that require the applicant to complete one level to move on to the next. For example, applicants for CAADAC certification start by earning the Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor credential and then move up to the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor Level 1 credential before getting the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors Level II credential. Many certification providers also award different types of designations like counselor-in-training, adolescent specialist, tobacco addiction specialist, clinical supervisor and criminal justice addiction counselor.


Each certification program comes with its own eligibility requirements, but typically a candidate must have at least a high school diploma, while most require a bachelor's degree or higher in a related field like counseling or psychology. Rather than earn a counseling degree, some programs allow applicants to take a certain number of credit hours in counseling-related courses to fulfill the education requirements. Some programs also require the applicant to hold a state counseling license. Candidates for abuse counselor certification should not have issues with substance abuse themselves and must be able to pass a criminal background check.


Generally, program requirements include participating in practicums or clinics in which counselors receive hands-on training, passing a certification exam, and documenting a minimum number of hours working in a professional counseling setting. Other requirements for completing a certification program include turning in a professional portfolio for review, undergoing an application process, and paying an application and exam fee.

the nest