Addictions Counselor Certification

Addictions counselors work for public health agencies, hospitals, substance abuse programs and private practices.
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Getting through the stresses and pressures of life can take a lot out of a person, leading some to turn to addictions such as alcohol and drugs. Some people turn to counselors with special training to deal with addictions. Addictions counselors help a patient work through the underlying reasons for her addiction, and provide a way out of addictive situations. Although not required by all employers, certification as an addictions counselor gives that counselor the proper training to help their clients heal.


Certifications typically address specific addictions. In Texas, for example, counselors may choose from seven addictions-related designations, including alcohol drug counselor, certified chemical dependency specialist and certified compulsive gambling counselor. The National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors offers four addictions certifications, including one that covers tobacco addiction.

Education and Training

Most certification programs require a bachelor's degree, and some ask for a master's degree with clinical experience. A few programs require only a high school diploma, such as the Associate Prevention Specialist designation from the Texas Certification Board of Addictions Professionals. This certification is designed for professionals who want additional training in addictions counseling. In addition to a particular degree, certification programs for addictions counselors may also require a certain number of training hours, practicum experience or other education hours. Typically, these additional training hours must be in addiction-related topics, such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, ethics and HIV/AIDS education.


Along with educational requirements, most certification programs require a minimum number of experience hours. A certification candidate must complete the experience hours under the supervision of a currently licensed or certified addictions counselor. Experience requirements range from 2,000 hours, or one-year of experience, to as many as 10,000 hours, or five years of experience. Many certification providers also mandate that a counselor holds a current counseling license to apply for certification.


Counselors applying for certification must pass a certification exam to earn the designation. Certification examinations typically take place at a third-party testing center, and many providers offer their certification exams several times throughout the year. The exact makeup of the exam varies depending on the provider, but generally includes topics such as pharmacology of psychoactive substances, counseling practice, theory of counseling and professional issues.

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