While most substance abuse counselors work with alcohol and drug addiction the field also covers other addiction issues such as gambling and eating disorders. If you're an empathetic person who enjoys helping other this may be the perfect career for you.
The field of substance abuse counseling is growing; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a projected job growth of 13 percent in Missouri over the next 10 years. The median annual income for counselors is $37,280 and the highest ten percent earned $50,238; both figures are slightly lower than the national average but do not reflect Missouri's lower cost of living as a whole.
Springfield, Missouri has the third highest concentration of jobs and location quotients in the nation with an annual mean wage on par with other metropolitan areas. This infers that the lower overall median wage is due to those employed in rural areas where wages are typically considerably lower.
Missouri is one of the few states that allow an entry level certification with minimal experience and education. That means if you wish you can enter the field while attending school and accrue experience while you earn your education. Although there is no minimum education over 50 percent of substance abuse counselors hold a master's degree or higher so you should make this degree your long-term educational goal.
Missouri Credentialing Levels
Missouri has five credential levels for substance abuse counselors: Recognized Associate Substance Abuse Counselor I and II, Certified Substance Counselor I and II, and Certified Advanced Substance Abuse Counselor. Credentials are awarded by the Missouri Substance Abuse Counselors Certification Board, which is sometimes referred to as the Missouri Credentialing Board (MCB). To earn each credential, you must complete specific educational and experience requirements.
Once you have the education and clinical supervised experience you must pass an exam as required by the MCB. When you pass the exam, you will have earned the level title of your credential.
Your credential must be renewed after a specific time frame, and during the period it is valid you must complete certain continuing education requirements before renewal. To navigate the path to licensure you should plan to join one or more professional organizations as soon as you begin your career path as a substance abuse counselor.
Types of Licensure for Missouri
There are five levels of substance abuse counselor certifications in the state of Missouri, and each has specific requirements before you can earn the credential. Each level must have a high school diploma or GED and must complete a State of Missouri Caregiver Background Screening. Here's a look at each certification:
Recognized Associate Substance Abuse Counselor I (RASAC I)
An RASAC I must submit a counselor development plan, which is a mentoring and clinical supervision agreement. They must also have:
- A minimum of 160 hours employment within the past 10 years OR hold a qualifying certificate or associate degree in addiction studies
- Three hours face-to-face (not online) ethics training
Recognized Associate Substance Abuse Counselor II (RASAC II)
The RASAC II certification also requires a counselor development plan. If you hold a bachelor’s degree you can enter the field at this level. In addition, you'll need:
- 2,000 hours (one year full-time) work experience in the past 10 years (1,000 hours with Associate degree)
- 90 hours of contact education including: nine hours substance abuse ethics and 30 hours related to substance abuse. 30 hours must have been completed in the 12-month period before certification application.
- 400 hours supervised practicum
Certified Substance Counselor I (CSAC I)
The CSAC I certification requirements are much more strident. You will need:
- Up to 4,000 work experience in the previous 10 years, depending on degree (Master's requires 1,000 hours)
- 180 hours education including: nine hours of substance abuse ethics, 45 hours substance abuse, 45 hours counseling; 60 hours must be completed in the previous 24 months.
- Submit a case study
- Present a case presentation method
- Complete 1,000 hours of supervised practicum
- Pass a written exam
Certified Substance Counselor II (CSAC II)
The CSAC II must meet the following criteria to become licensed:
- 6,000 hours employment within past 10 years
- 270 hours education including: nine hours substance abuse ethics, 45 hours substance abuse training, 45 hours counseling training. 60 of the hours must have been completed within the past 24 months.
- 1,800 hours of supervised practicum
If not completed at the CSAC I level you must also present a written case study, a case presentation method, and pass a written exam.
Certified Advanced Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC)
When you reach the CASAC level you are earning the top substance abuse counselor credential in Missouri. You will need:
- Master's degree in behavioral science
- 4,000 hours previous employment
- 180 hours education, including: nine hours substance abuse ethics, 45 hours counseling, and 45 hours substance abuse training. 60 hours of education must have been completed within the past 24 months.
- 300 hours supervised practicum
- Pass a written exam
In not completed at a lower level you will need to present a written case study and a written presentation method.
All coursework and degrees must be from institutions that appear in a national directory of accredited programs, so your first step should be to verify your school of choice is accredited. Because the work hours requirement varies depending on your level of education you should choose an applicable degree. The following are examples of degrees accepted to reduce or eliminate your required work hours:
- Applied behavioral science
- Art therapy
- Chemical dependency
- Criminal justice
- Family studies
- Human services
- Social work
You should plan your education in tandem with the requirements for each level; for example, since the CSAC I level requires 30 hours of both counseling and substance abuse coursework and the higher levels require 45 hours of each your class load should always work to meet these requirements. Because all levels require nine hours of substance abuse ethics this should be taken in your first or second semester of schooling.
Here are samples topics from the degrees you might take:
- Appraisal of individuals
- Counseling theory
- Group dynamics
- Helping relationship
- Human growth and development
- Professional orientation
- Research methods
- Social and cultural foundations
Because each of the four higher levels requires a supervised practicum you should look for internships that qualify so you can begin building that experience. Likewise, any employment or volunteer work you perform should be under clinical supervision if at all possible. Always ask if hours can be applied towards this requirement and make sure hours are logged as required to give you practicum credit.
Testing Process for Missouri
As previously stated you must have at least a high school diploma or GED to begin earning your credentials. You will need to show proof of this as well as official transcripts of all coursework. In addition, you will need:
- State of Missouri Caregiver Background Screening
- Three letters of recommendation
- Proof of work experience
- Verification of practicum hours
- Written case study and case presentation method (if required for your credential)
Once your application is processed and approved you'll be notified of the date, time, and location for your written exam (if required). Once you pass the exam your credential will be issued.
Clinical Supervision Explained
Clinical supervision in your required practicum hours means you are working under the direction of a person specifically certified to train others in the field of substance abuse counseling. Your clinical supervisor will be mentor, coach, counselor, and trainer and will help you learn every aspect of the counseling field as needed. Clinical supervisors help counselors as needed so they can grow in the areas they lack experience in. For example, if you're great on face-to-face counseling client but lacking in the skills need to document your cases your clinical supervisor will help bring your documentation skills up to par and not focus as much on your counseling skills.
Renewal and Continuing Education
You will need to renew your credential every two years, and in the interim 24 month you must complete 40 hours of continuing education. 20 of the hours may be online and the remaining 20 must be in person. The following are examples of acceptable continuing education:
- Attendance at counseling workshops or seminars
- Attendance at verified professional meetings
- Post-graduate coursework
- Instruction as a faculty member at an accredited institution Instruction of continuing education (up to 4 hours)
- Research presentations at professional meetings
- Written contributions to professional books, journals, or periodicals
The following continuing education providers are accepted in Missouri:
- American Counseling Association
- American Medical Association
- American Mental Health Counselors Association
- National Board for Certified Counselors
- Regionally accredited colleges and universities
As soon as you enroll in school you should join one or more professional associations. Membership in these organizations can provide mentorship, networking opportunities, and a source for information on the latest news and legislative changes that may affect your career. You'll also find they're a great source for continuing education and other classes, finding information on conferences, workshops, and seminars, and local meetings where you can interact with your peers. Memberships in associations often come with perks such as reduced rates on books and other materials as well as discounts to conferences and other events. Here are a few substance abuse counselor associations you can join in Missouri:
- Missouri Addiction Counselors Association (MACA)
- The Missouri Association of Addiction Professionals
- The Association of Christian Alcohol & Drug Counselors (ACADC)
- American Counseling Association of Missouri
- Missouri Mental Health Counselors Association