The need for substance abuse counselors is on the rise nationwide. If you’re considering becoming a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, you’ll spend your days helping people who need professional guidance to overcome their addictions and embrace their best healthy, sober lives.

Becoming a substance abuse counselor doesn’t happen overnight. Before you can obtain the proper credentials needed to practice on your own, you’ll need to complete years of education and training, as well as a challenging licensing exam.

Here’s what you’ll have to do before you’re able to start practicing as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in Nebraska.

Overview

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services defines a substance abuse counselor as “an individual who provides the 12 core functions of: screening, intake, orientation, assessment, treatment planning, counseling (individual, group and significant others), case management, crisis intervention, client education, referral, reports and recordkeeping and consultation with other professionals in regard to client treatment and services.”

Alcohol and drug counselors in Nebraska must be licensed to practice by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) division. Before they can earn licensure, counselors must complete relevant coursework and training, gain experience in a supervised setting, and pass the licensing exam.

Types of Licensure

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A counselor who meets all of the requirements of licensure is certified as a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC). Counselors who are in the process of completing the steps needed for licensure are known as Provisional Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor (PLADC). Both levels of licensure must be applied for individually, and each one has requirements that must be completed in order to work towards or keep a valid license.

Prospective counselors in Nebraska have the ability enter the field holding just a high school diploma (provided they meet the minimum age of 19), but the process is faster and easier overall with a bachelor’s degree. Nebraska’s policies regarding graduate experience differs from those of many states--LADCs with graduate degrees do not automatically receive additional credentials with their license. They can, however, obtain extra credentials through DHHS.

Addiction counselors who do earn an advanced degree may be eligible to be certified as a Licensed Professional Counselor. They may also apply for licensure as a Mental Health Practitioner, which allows addiction counselors the ability to practice as a mental health counselor. This is especially useful when treating clients with co-occurring disorders, as LADCs without a MHP license must refer clients elsewhere for mental health diagnoses and treatment.

LADC Education Requirements

On top of a high school diploma or GED, the prospective LADC must complete a minimum of 270 education hours. This can take place in a traditional college or university setting, or in workshops, institutes, or seminars.

Students will need to complete 45 hours covering each of the following subjects:

  • Techniques and theories of counseling
  • Group counseling
  • The medical and psychosocial aspects of drug and alcohol addiction

Students will also need to complete 30 hours studying each of the following topics:

  • Human growth and development
  • Clinical treatment issues
  • Multicultural counseling
  • Assessment, case planning, and management

Prospective counselors must also complete an additional 15 hours of ethics training.

Several universities in Nebraska have submitted their courses to be pre-approved by the DHHS. The DHHS website contains a list of approved classes to cover the LDAC education requirements.

Counselors who have earned graduate degrees in addiction can reduce the course load needed before they’re eligible to obtain licensure. However, they will need to document the courses they took to properly cover the required content areas.

Provisional Training and Supervised Experience

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Nebraska employs a two-part licensure process that prospective substance abuse counselors must complete before they’re able to begin practicing on their own.

As part of their training, PLADC candidates must complete at least 300 hours of practice experience under the supervision of a licensed counselor. This must include a minimum of ten hours in each of the 12 areas of function outlined by the state’s DHHS. Upon completing their 300 work hours and passing a standard criminal background check, candidates may be eligible to apply for a provisional license.

In this part of the process, candidates will be supervised by a LADC or psychologist with training in addiction counseling. They will take on a caseload of clients for whom they will perform the duties of an LADC, which must include:

  • Assessment
  • Case management
  • Consulting with other professionals
  • Counseling
  • Record keeping and maintenance
  • Referrals
  • Treatment planning

For every ten hours of core alcohol and drug counseling training completed, the candidate will need to meet with their supervisor for a face to face evaluation lasting at least one hour. They’ll also need to log one hour of individual or group supervision for each hour of paid experience.

Prospective licensees who don’t hold a college degree will need to gain experience by completing a minimum of 6,000 hours of work experience. This is the equivalent of three years working full time. Candidates with an associate’s degree in addictions or chemical dependency can get their work requirement reduced to 5,000 hours. A bachelor’s degree in addictions, chemical dependency, sociology, social work, or psychology can eliminate an additional 1,000 hours of required experience, knocking the number of hours needed to 4,000. Candidates with a graduate degree in addictions, chemical dependency, sociology, social work, or psychology will only need to complete 2,000 hours of experience before being eligible for full licensure.

A prospective LADC may hold a provisional license for up to six years. They’ll need to meet with their supervisor for one hour of face to face evaluation for every 40 hours worked.

LADC Examination Process in Nebraska

Candidates seeking LADC licensing must first take the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) exam. Prospective counselors will need to apply to the DHHS for permission to take the computer-based exam. They’ll also need to pay a $100 application fee.

Once eligibility is confirmed, licensing candidates can expect to receive information about scheduling and taking the exam. Testing sites are located in North Platte and Omaha.

Candidates who don’t pass the test will be eligible to take it again, but will have to wait at least 60 days after the exam date to retest. They will also have to pay the application fee for each exam taken.

After passing the exam, PLADCs can submit an application to be licensed as a practicing alcohol and drug counselor in Nebraska. All forms required for application can be found on the DHHS website.

Renewal and Continuing Education

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Once a substance abuse counselor has earned a LADC, they will need to work to retain their license.

The renewal process takes place every two years. No matter the date on which the license was initially received, renewal takes place statewide on September 1st of each even numbered year. For example, all LADCs will need to renew their licenses in September of 2018 and will need to do so again by September 1st of 2020.

Licenses can be renewed online. Renewal applications are also available for download on the DHHS website. Counselors will need to pay a $175 license renewal fee with their application.

In order to keep their license active, substance abuse counselors will need to complete 40 hours of continued education during every licensing cycle. At least 20 of these hours must be in areas specific to drug and alcohol addiction, and must be approved by the DHHS or by one of the following groups:

  • Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTC)
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC)

The remaining 20 hours may be in addiction related areas but can also take place in other relevant areas of concentration. In order to count toward the continued education requirement, these credit hours must be approved by one of the following groups:

  • American Counselors Association (ACA)
  • National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • American Medical Association (AMA)
  • Nebraska Medical Association (NMA)
  • American Nurses Licensing Center’s Commission on Accreditation
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT)
  • Nebraska Nurses Association (NNA)

For each two-year renewal period, licensees can earn up to a total of:

  • 15 hours of continued education through home study programs
  • 15 hours as the presenter in a seminar or group presentation
  • 10 hours spent doing research in a peer review setting

Continued education hours must be properly documented to count towards credit requirements.

LADC Associations in Nebraska

Joining a professional organization can provide additional resources for substance abuse counselors looking to stay on top of current rules and regulations.

Nebraska substance abuse counselors have the option to join the Nebraska Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. This group is a local affiliate of a larger national organization.