Nationally the role of substance abuse counselor falls within the field of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors and focuses primarily on addressing addiction issues. Drug and alcohol addiction are the primary behaviors treated by substance abuse counselors and because the addiction problem is growing the need for counselors is also on the rise. While the national job growth outlook is at eight percent the Bureau of Labor Statistics states the projected employment for counselors will grow 23 percent between now and 2016. In Kentucky it is much higher, with a projected need for counselors at a robust 42.2 percent over the next decade.
Salary and Job Requirements
While the national annual median wage for substance abuse counselors in 2017 was $43,300 in Kentucky it is slightly lower at $39,070. This is actually a positive aspect because the cost of living in Kentucky is lower than most states and balances the difference in annual mean wages.
Substance abuse counselors are licensed and certified at a state level so to practice in Kentucky you must meet state requirements. That being said, each state must meet national standards in order to be eligible to receive federal funding and most states require certification or licensure for a facility or program to receive state funding. Likewise, most insurance companies will not cover programs unless the practitioners are certified, licensed, or accredited by the state regulations.
Because of these factors you should know the state licensure requirements before you begin your formal education to become a substance abuse counselor in Kentucky. By having a clear path to follow you can avoid potential roadblocks and make a smooth transition into your counseling career.
In Kentucky substance abuse counselors are certified and licensed as alcohol and drug counselor by the State Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC). Kentucky has two credentials: Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC). Each credential has specific educational, clinical, and testing criteria that must be met before you earn the title.
Once you become a substance abuse counselor your education will not end. To maintain your credential, you'll be required to renew periodically and take specific continuing education courses in the interim.
Because substance abuse counseling is a high "burnout" occupation it's a good idea to advance your career in steps while continuing your education. By entering the field via an internship while earning your bachelor’s degree you can get a clear idea of the area in which you would like to specialize, and you can then concentrate your Master's degree or Doctorate in that specialized area. This will give you the benefit of being focused on a career area you truly enjoy and will hopefully prevent burnout once you begin your long-term career.
Types of Licensure for Kentucky
The licensure standards for Kentucky closely follow those set forth by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (IC&RC). A standard requirement is that you must be a Kentucky resident in order to apply for certification. Here are the two types of licensure and the basic requirements for each:
Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) criteria:
Pass a criminal background test
Minimum education of bachelor’s degree with 270 semester hours including 30 hours in each of the following:
- Professional Responsibility
- Case Management
- Client education
Six hours of face-to-face (not online) ethics training
Three hours of domestic violence training
Two hours training in the prevention, transmission, control, and treatment of HIV
6000 hours of supervised AODA work with substance abuse clients in the following 12 core areas, with a minimum of 10 hours in each area:
- Treatment Planning
- Case Management
- Crisis Intervention
- Client Education
- Reports and Record Keeping
Pass the Substance Abuse Exam
Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC) criteria:
Pass a criminal background test
Earn a master’s degree or higher in behavioral science with clinical application in one of three ways:
- Master's degree in 60 semester hours
- Advanced placement master’s degree in 30 semester hours
- Doctoral degree
- 180 semester hours of substance abuse coursework
- Six hours face-to-face (not online) ethics training
- Three hours of domestic violence training
- Two hours training in the prevention, transmission, control, and treatment of HIV
- 2000 hours of experience including a minimum 300 hours under direct supervision
- Pass the advanced’ level examination
All educational requirements except the ethics requirements may be earned via online coursework if desired. While there are no specific degree subject requirements for the CADC the LCADC does require a Master's in a Behavioral Science field, so it's a good plan to begin your education with that in mind. Substance abuse counseling programs may be titled as addiction counseling, Masters in Addiction Studies, or a similar title; you should verify your program meets the state requirements before you enroll.
Kentucky does not require accreditation for licensure but it's a good idea to choose an accredited school in case you choose to practice in a different state in the future. Kentucky does accept accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) specifically for opioid treatment programs.
For certification you'll need to take the specific coursework as outline previously. Because the LCADC certification requires at least a Master's in a Behavioral Science field if you begin your education with a bachelor’s degree you should choose a course of study that will transition into a master's or doctoral program in a Behavioral Science field.
Here are examples of the types of courses you'll need to take:
- Pharmacology and Psychopharmacology
- Psychological Evaluations and Assessments
- Diagnosis of Chemical or Behavioral Dependency
- Addiction Psychology and Sociology
- Group and Individual Counseling
- Contemporary Topics in Substance Abuse
- Treatment Methods for Drug or Alcohol Abuse
In addition, you should plan to take computer courses that will enable you to complete the paperwork and documentation required to maintain files on each client.
Your bachelor's and master's degrees will each require an internship. You should choose an internship that will also give you credit for supervised experience as required for your state certification as this will shorten the time to become certified.
Testing Process for Kentucky
Kentucky has four application deadlines and four written exam dates per year. Your first step will be to complete the application process, which can be submitted online through the Kentucky Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors website. The current fee schedule as of 2018 is as follows:
- Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor Application Fee $50.00 (due at the time of application)
- Licensure Written Exam Fee $200.00
- Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor Issuance Fee $300.00
Your application will be reviewed by the Board so you should apply at least 10 days before the next scheduled Board meeting. You should receive a reply within two weeks of the meeting stating whether or not your application has been approved. If your application is approved you'll also be notified of the testing location, time, and other pertinent information regarding your licensure exam.
Your exam scores will take up to three weeks and will be sent via postal delivery. If you pass the exam you'll receive an approval notice and a request for the initial Licensure fee. Once the fee is received by the Board they will issue you a license number.
Clinical Supervision Explained
Clinical supervision means you'll be working as a counselor while under the direct guidance of a LCADC licensed professional. In Kentucky supervision must be approved by the Board in advance, and the supervisor must be trained and registered as such with the state.
Your clinical supervisor will document your supervision on a daily basis to record your hours for the state requirements. You will basically be working as a substance abuse counselor and your supervisor will keep a log of the hours they oversaw to verify you are meeting the licensure requirement. This is a vital step to verify while you are completing your internship as you can accumulate experience hours while still earning your degree.
In Kentucky you'll need to renew your substance abuse counselor certification every three years. In the interim you are required to take 60 hours of continuing education classes, three of which must be training in ethics and six hours in suicide assessment, treatment, and management. Half of the total hours may be taken via distance learning (online) and at least half must be live face-to-face education. All continuing education must be board approved; the following organizations are pre-approved by the board for continuing education:
- The National Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) and its member boards;
- The International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (ICRC);
- The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and its subcontractors;
- The Kentucky School of Alcohol and Drug Studies;
- An Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC);
- State or United States Regional Addiction Training Institute
- Clinical Applications of the Principles on Treatment of Addictions and Substance Abuse (CAPTASA)
It's important to note that continuing education hours can be accumulated in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:
- Academic credits are based on one credit hour equaling 15 continuing education hours
- Teaching a program or academic course earns two continuing education hours for each contact hour of instruction
- Five continuing education hours are awarded for each published abstract or book review in a refereed journal
- 10 continuing education hours are awarded for each book chapter or monograph
- 15 continuing education hours are awarded for each published article in a refereed journal
- 20 continuing education hours are awarded for each published book
Professional Associations for Kentucky
As soon as you begin your education as a Kentucky substance abuse counselor you should consider joining one or more professional organizations. Because many people support the development of newcomers to the field you'll find support and resources that will be invaluable to your education and career. Mentorship, peer support, and online courses are just a few of the options you'll find when joining associations. Here are a few that are available to Kentucky counselors:
- The National Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC)
- Kentucky Association of Addiction Professionals
- The Kentucky Counseling Association (KCA)
- Kentucky Mental Health Counselors Association
- The International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors
- National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers