When you decided to begin your career as a substance abuse counselor, you started the process for a rewarding, sometimes difficult career. Using your education and potentially some experiences, you’re going to be working with individuals who desperately need guidance as they try to shake difficult addictions to substances. They may have tried to stop using substances by themselves, only to be sucked back into their addiction time and time again.
Now that you, along with several other licensing applicants are ready to begin working in an Alabama substance abuse facility, they may have a better direction for their lives. Before you begin working, you need to jump through a few state-mandated hoops. Once you graduate from your counseling program, you’ll begin to study again, for the licensure exam. This is required of every counseling applicant to each substance abuse rehab facility in Alabama. It’s how Alabama, along with forty-nine other states, ensures that its counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers have the ethics and knowledge they need to work in this field.
Once you don your cap and gown to graduate from college, you still have some steps to complete before you begin working for a substance abuse treatment facility in Alabama. You’ll need to take a licensing exam that will tell treatment facilities that you have the education, ethics and knowledge necessary to work with residents or clients.
This means you’ll have to request a licensing packet from the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling. Inside that packet, you’ll find several documents. For the associate licensed counselor, you’ll find the ALC application, application information, a worksheet for the course work you’ll need to review, proof of citizenship an ALC recommendation for and proposed plan of supervision.
Inside the licensed professional counselor’s packet, you’ll see the LPC endorsement application, proof of citizenship, recommendation form and the academic prerequisite policy.
Make sure you know what the educational requirements are for licensure at your level. This makes your work much easier as you complete each step.
Alabama substance abuse counselors who have been in the field for at least one year are required to maintain their continuing education hours every other year. CE hours vary from state to state, but the procedure is similar across states.
Every year, each substance abuse counselor is expected to attend conferences and training seminars. Organizations that provide educational seminars for CE requirements will give certificates of completion to each attendee. Until their annual CE hours are completed for the upcoming year, counselors are supposed to take part in these educational opportunities. Once they have their CE hours fulfilled, counselors next make copies of their completion certificates, fill out paperwork that helps to track each counselor’s CE hours, attach the appropriate payment, if any, and send the materials in. Once the counselor licensing agency receives the counselor’s continuing education packet, their license to practice will be extended for two calendar years.
Types of Licensure in Alabama
Different substance abuse treatment facilities require counselors at different levels. Some counselors work at a higher level than other counselors. In Alabama, four certification levels are available
The Associate Addictions Professional
This person works at the lowest level of certification. This professional should have one year of experience, or 2,000 hours of practice experience. If you are at this level, you are only required to hold a high school diploma or GED; you should also have 150 hours of clinical supervision in 12 core functions; 150 hours of education and training; 65 hours in counseling education and another 85 hours in addiction education.
Your supervisor and three colleagues should provide evaluations of your work experience. You’re required to have six hours of ethics education and four hours of HIV/AIDS education.
To work as an associate addictions professional, you should pass the written exam administered in Alabama. You also need to present signed Code of Ethics and appropriate releases.
Certified Addictions Counselor, Reciprocal Level
This certification also doesn’t require a college degree. A high school diploma and GED are required. You need to have three years or 6,000 hours of direct counseling experience. If you do have an advanced degree, a master’s degree will be a good substitute for two years or 4,000 hours of experience. If you have a bachelor’s degree, this is a substitute for one year or 2,000 hours of direct counseling experience.
You need 300 hours of clinical supervision in 12 core functions. Take 270 hours of education and training workshops related to the 12 core functions.
Obtain evaluations from three colleagues and your supervisor. Take four hours of HIV/AIDS education and six of ethics education.
At this level, you need to pass the ICRC written exam, submit a written case presentation, pass the oral exam and sign your copy of the Code of Ethics and all releases.
Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Professional
You’ll need three years or 6,000 hours of direct counseling practice. As with the certified addictions counselor, a bachelor’s or masters will substitute for some of the required hours of direct counseling experience.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a human services field, 300 hours of clinical supervision in the 12 core functions, 4 hours of HIV/AIDs education and 6 hours of ethics education. Obtain signed evaluations from three colleagues and your supervisor. Pass the ICRC written exam and the oral exam. Submit one written case presentation and sign the Code of Ethics and required releases.
Master’s Level Addiction Professional
If you are a master’s level addiction professional, many of the previous requirements apply here as well. You’ll need to hold a master’s degree in a social services field.
Licensed professional counselors in Alabama are required to hold their master’s degree in counseling. You should have earned this from a CORE or CACREP-accredited educational program or its equivalent. You’ll be required to have at least 48 graduate semester hours completed when you begin working for a substance abuse facility.
To be accepted for licensure in Alabama, you need to take courses in counseling theory, which includes courses in basic theories, the principles and techniques of counseling and how these apply to professional counseling settings.
Take courses in social and multicultural foundations. These courses should have a broad focus in societal changes and trends, societal subgroups, human roles, multicultural and pluralistic trends, social mores and interaction patterns, major societal concerns (stress, substance abuse, person abuse, discrimination and various methods for alleviating these issues.
Human growth and development. Here, you need courses that give you a broader understanding of people at their different developmental levels. You need a background in abnormal behavior and personality theory, learning theory and life-span theory and finally, the learning theory as it stands within cultural context.
As a counselor, you are in a helping role. To be the most effective advocate, you need to have a wide understanding of philosophic bases of helping and these processes. You’ll learn counseling theories and how these are applied. Basic and advanced helping skills are also taught. You’ll need to study client/helper self-understanding and self-development. You’ll also work on the facilitation of client change.
You’ll probably work in group settings. Here, you need to understand group dynamics, processing and counseling. You’ll learn group dynamics and counseling theories, group leadership styles and other group approaches.
Lifestyle and career development classes help you to understand career development theories, occupational and educational information sources and systems. You’ll learn about career and leisure counseling, guidance and education, lifestyle and career choices and program planning around career development.
You’ll learn how to appraise individuals, using psychometric and educational theories. Data and information gathering methods will be a part of your learning. In learning about statistics, you’ll go over validity, reliability and psychometric studies. You’ll also learn how to administer and interpret tests and inventories so you can learn how to assess an individual’s abilities, career options and interests.
You’ll learn about research and evaluation using basic statistics, research report development and research implementation. You’ll learn how to evaluate programs and run needs assessments. Ethical and legal considerations will also be taught.
The practicum and internship will be a vitally important part of your education. Here, you’ll put into practice everything you’ve learned.
Testing Process in Alabama
In Alabama, you’ll have to meet the following educational requirements to work as a substance abuse counselor.
Have a master’s degree in counseling, with a minimum of 48 semester hours at the graduate level. You can substitute with a minimum of 72 graduate quarter hours at a regionally accredited university or college. This university or college should be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Look at your previous course work. That will tell you what you need to list on your worksheet for reporting course work. In fact, you’ll need to complete this worksheet in the process of applying for a test date.
In fact, the two counselor levels (Associate Licensed Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor have similar requirements.
Clinical Supervision Explained
As a substance abuse counselor, you’re going to be supervised, even if you have a master’s degree and all of the other required certifications. This is required, not only in Alabama, but other states as well.
Your supervisor will be required to provide supervision for you and your colleagues as you work with your clients. That supervision will be required in different areas of your daily work. Some will be in the 12 core functions, as well as in other areas of your work.
The higher your certifications go, the more hours of supervised work you’ll be required to complete. That is, you’ll have to undergo 150 clinical supervision hours as an associate addictions professional; as a certified addictions counselor, these hours double.
Renewal and Continuing Education Required
The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling oversees acceptable professional development activities for every continuing education activity. This has been set up to protect individual counselors as well as their employers.
If you find an educational activity that has not been authorized by any examiners board in Alabama, all you need to do is ask. Before you take part in the seminar or convention, have the approval from the Board of Examiners so you can apply those CE hours to your bi-annual licensing paperwork.
Associations in Alabama
Substance abuse counselors and counseling and mental health students who wish to work in this field rely on state associations to guide their career goals, certifications and job searches.
In Alabama, this association is the Association for Addiction Professionals. The state association is the “Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors (AAAC)”. NAADAC vets education providers and education programs. It is responsible for certifications and its state membership.
The Alabama Counseling Association guides community and professional service for counselors overall.