Substance abuse counselors are in high demand throughout the country with a projected job growth of 23 percent over the next 10 years. In Louisiana it is significantly lower at 14.8 percent, so if your goal is to become a substance abuse counselor in Louisiana you should take this into consideration. While the job market won't be as robust as in other areas by careful planning you can ensure your education and experience makes you stand out of the crowd once you enter the job market.
The median annual wage for counselors in Louisiana it is slightly lower at $38,460, with the lowest 10 percent earning an average of $19, 060 and the highest 10 percent averaging $60,590 per year. The lower range typically represents those just entering the field and the higher wage range demonstrates the importance of education and experience in relationship to income.
Like other mental health professionals, substance abuse counselors are certified and licensed on the state level. Because licensure and certification is required for programs to be eligible for federal and state funding most facilities require counselors to meet the state standards.
Because certification and licensure is vital to your success as a substance abuse counselor you should have a clear understanding of the state requirements before you begin your education.
Louisiana substance abuse counselors are overseen by the Louisiana State Addiction Disorder Regulatory Authority. Louisiana has three credentials for counselors: Registered Addiction Counselor (RAC), Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC), and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC). All three certificates have specific education, training, and experience requirements that must be met; the two professional credentials also require you pay a fee and pass a state exam.
Once you've earned your credential you'll need to follow state requirements for renewal and continuing education coursework. It's a good idea to plan your education and career in clear steps so you can become certified and progress in a timely manner. For example, by working an internship at a certified facility while earning your Bachelor's degree you can also earn credit for your experience requirements, and by planning your coursework in advance you can ensure you've met the educational requirements when you're ready to take your exam.
Types of Licensure for Louisiana
Licensure in Louisiana is overseen by the Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority (ADRA) and follows the standards of the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (IC&RC). There are three credentials you can earn as a substance abuse counselor, and each requires specific coursework and experience. All three types of certification applicants must meet the following criteria:
- At least 21 years old
- Is a legal resident of the U.S.
- Is not in violation of any ethical standard set forth by the ADRA
- Has not been a substance abuser or compulsive gambler for a minimum of two years prior to application
- Has not been convicted of a felony (requirement may be waived by review)
- Has completed 270 clock hours of approved substance abuse education as outlined by ADRA
- Has completed specific work hour requirements which must include a 300 hour practicum on 12 core functions and global criteria with at least 10 hours in each core function
- Pass a written exam
The 12 core functions are:
- Treatment Planning
- Case Management
- Crisis Intervention
- Client Education
- Reports and Record Keeping
In addition, the following applies specifically to each level of certification:
Registered Addiction Counselor (RAC)
An RAC must have at least high school diploma as well as 6,000 hours of supervised work experience in substance abuse counseling, which is the equivalent of three full-time years. The supervisor must be a Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) or meet the criteria of the ADRA board.
Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC):
Must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in human services or behavioral science and complete 4,000 hours of supervised work experience in the treatment of substance abuse.
Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC):
Must hold at least a master’s degree in a human services or behavioral science field and complete 2,000 hours of supervised work experience in substance abuse counseling.
Louisiana requires all formal substance abuse education to be from an accredited school. Educational criteria for each type of certification require 270 clock hours, 180 of which must be specific to substance abuse treatment as well as six hours in professional ethics. The remaining 84 hours can be in any related subject as approved by ADRA. Education is based on clock hours in order to allow those working towards their higher credential to include education outside the classroom. Certification clock hours are counted as follows:
- One college credit hour equals 15 clock hours
- One continuing education hour equals 10 clock hours
- One hour of professional conference or workshop equals one clock hour
Because of the clock hour credit system, it's important that you validate and track your educational experience both inside and outside the classroom.
The following are examples of degree fields accepted as human services or behavior science by the ADRA:
- Addiction studies
- Behavioral health
- Criminal justice
- Public health
- Rehabilitation counseling
- Social work
It's a good idea to combine fields of study to get a broader education on substance abuse; for example, if you plan to counsel for drug abuse you may benefit from majoring in addiction studies with a minor in criminal justice.
Because the field is paperwork intensive your degree should also include computer courses geared towards patient recordkeeping and maintenance. You can save time accumulating the required experience hours by doing your degree internship under an approved clinical supervisor.
Testing Process for Louisiana
Once you've met the educational and experience criteria you will be eligible for certification. The first step is to apply to the ADRA to verify both your education and work experience are acceptable. You'll be required to pay a fee of $186 and pass a background check when you apply and will also need to submit your documents regarding education and experience. Your application may take up to four weeks to be reviewed.
Once your application is reviewed you'll receive a notice of approval via email with a testing payment form attached. The fee for each credential is $285 and should be submitted promptly. Once your payment is processed you'll be contacted by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) through the Louisiana Substance Abuse Counselors and Trainers (LASACT) office with test scheduling instructions. Testing centers are located in LaPlace and Baton Rouge.
LASACT uses Computer Based Testing (CBT) and your test results will be available immediately. Your new credentials will be made available after the next formal ADRA board meeting.
Clinical Supervision Explained
Clinical supervision is your work experience as a substance abuse counselor while you're earning your certification. A clinical supervisor (CCS) must be approved by ADRA and meet the following criteria to become certified:
- Hold a valid LAC, CAC, or RAC credential with an addiction add-on certificate
- Complete 10,000 hours (five years full-time employment) of work experience treating addictive disorders, 4,000 of those hours being in a supervisory position
- Completed 200 clock hours of face-to-face clinical supervision (up to 100 of which may be via computer real-time)
- Complete 90 clock hours of education, 30 hours of which should be in the first five supervision domains (minimum four hours each domain and 60 hours specific to addiction treatment
The five required supervision domains are:
- Counselor Development
- Professional & Ethical Standards
- Program Development & Quality Assurance
- Program Evaluation
- Treatment Knowledge
Because clinical supervisors must meet these strident requirements to earn the CCS certificate it is vital that you verify the credential when you are completing your work requirements prior to your certification and licensure.
Renewal and Continuing Education
Your substance abuse counselor certification must be renewed every two years. During the two years prior to renewal you will be required to complete 48 hours of continuing education including at least six hours in professional ethics.
Continuing education verification also uses clock hours; one semester credit hour equals 15 clock hours. The following forms are also acceptable types of continuing education:
- Other educational programs offered by the ADRA
- Education provided by a counselor's own agency with prior ADRA approval is accepted; in-service training is not acceptable.
You will be responsible for providing proof of completed continuing education when you submit your renewal form so it's vital that you track and document all CE during the two years your license is in effect.
Professional Associations for Louisiana
Professional organizations will be vital to your career as a substance abuse counselor. They provide mentorship, peer networking, and continuing education as well as resources to complete your education and career.
You should plan to join one or more professional organizations as soon as you begin your counseling education. By having a solid foundation of resources to turn to you will make your professional path easier to find and follow. Here are a few organizations dedicated to the field of substance abuse counseling:
- Louisiana Substance Abuse Counselors and Trainers
- The Louisiana Association of Addiction and Offender Counselors
- Louisiana Association of Addiction Professionals