As you near the end of your college education, it’s time to begin thinking of, and planning for your career as a substance abuse counselor. In Oklahoma, as in every state in the country, you’ll be required to take and pass an exam for licensure.

Overview

Once you begin practicing, your educational endeavors will continue. Oklahoma, like every state in the U.S., requires its substance abuse counselors, as well as other professionals, to keep their education and knowledge current. This means their licenses to practice will expire every 24 months. To remain eligible to work as a substance abuse counselor, you need to take required continuing education classes, keep track of these, then provide certifications from these classes as proof that your CE hours are up to date.

As you seek out continuing education classes, remember that they need to be approved by the Oklahoma Board of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors. These classes are required to help you with several functions you carry out in your daily work.

You’ll be supervised regularly by a clinical supervisor. This person won’t be in your office during every hour that you are counseling. Your clinical supervisor has specific goals in mind as they work with you.

You’ll need to find other substance abuse counseling professionals you can network with. Having a membership in professional organizations helps you to connect with other counselors, learn how they do their work and increase your professional visibility.

Required Education and Licensure Types

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When you decide you want a career as a substance abuse counselor, you’ll need to take university or college classes that educate you about this profession. You’ll be entering a mental health and counseling field.

You’ll need to take mental health, counseling and ethics courses. Don’t forget about courses in multicultural sensitivity and competency, either.

The university of your choice should have programs designed for your interests. Your courses will teach you about the dynamics that fuel addiction to various substances.

You’ll also learn about mental health conditions which, when combined with substance abuse, are known as “co-occurring” or “co-morbid” disorders.

Once you earn your bachelor’s degree, you may decide to go straight into classes to earn your master’s degree. If so, once you graduate, you can take the licensure exam for the licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or LADC. At some schools, you may be able to earn a master’s in a related discipline, then request dual licensure.

The courses you take in college will allow you to become a knowledgeable and well-rounded professional. You’ll be well equipped to work with clients who suffer from addiction and their family members.

In Oklahoma, two licensing levels for addiction counselors exist. The first is the Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC) and the second is the Licensed Alcohol Drug Counselor (LADC).

Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor Education

As a CADC, you must hold a master’s degree in alcohol and substance abuse counseling. You have to finish 300 practicum hours of supervised professional training in the 12 core functions. Have a supervision plan and agreement with a board-approved supervisor. Complete 4,000 hours of AODA professional employment, under supervision.

Licensed Alcohol Drug Counselor

If you are an LADC, you should have all of the above requirements, plus: Passing the IC&RC AADC exam (this is an international credentialing exam). You need to have 2,000 hours of AODA professional employment under board approved supervision. You probably noticed that the CADC has a higher level of requirements—this is because the licensure is at a higher level.

Behavioral health case managers also work with individuals who are addicted to substances. If you are a case manager, you may work in the office or in your clients’ homes. You may also work within a substance abuse facility.

You’ll work with your clients, developing a wraparound plan that brings together all the services an individual client may need. Your biggest goal in working with your clients is to help your client reach the goals they have established so they can stay in active recovery.

Testing Requirements for Licensure

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As you work to gain your initial license to practice, you’ll rely on what you learned in your college classes. Once you get a study guide, you’ll have a good idea of the areas you should focus on as you study and review—this means your time spent studying will be focused on what the exam itself will hold.

After you’ve been working as a LADC for at least 18 months, you’ll begin planning to submit paperwork for license renewal. Make sure that you have sufficient continuing education hours. Keep every certificate of completion you receive because you will have to send copies in when you renew your license.

Your continuing education (CE) courses should be selected with the intent to increase and deepen your knowledge of addiction-related topics. As you advance in this profession, you’ll be expected to work with difficult situations and clients.

Case managers working in a substance abuse rehab facility are not required to earn a degree specific to substance abuse. Instead, as a case manager, you should have earned a bachelor’s or master’s in a behavioral health-related field. If you graduated with a nursing degree, you can change over to case management as long as you have current licensure as a registered nurse in Oklahoma. And, just as with the LADCs in your field, you have to undergo testing for certification.

Requirements for Clinical Supervision

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Clinical supervisors hold a vital role in substance abuse counseling. They have several goals they work toward as they supervise your work with your clients.

You won’t be under clinical supervision 100 percent of your work day. Instead, you and your CS will decide on the times each week that they will observe your work with clients.

As your supervisor in working with you in a clinical supervision role, they are ensuring that the activities you carry out with clients mesh well with the mission of the facility. They will also check to see if your treatment philosophy and clinical theory mesh with evidence-based practices.

At its most basic, clinical supervision helps to ensure that every client is receiving high-quality care. Your supervisor also verifies that your professional development is moving forward smoothly. You have the right to expect clinical supervision as you work with your clients.

If your clinical supervisor has fewer years of practical experience than you do, you may be wondering how effective your clinical supervision is. Your CS may have other experience that substitutes for the years of experience. Be frank but respectful with your supervisors in addressing your concerns. You want your supervised experiences to help you stretch and grow as an addiction counselor.

Your CS may use one or more clinical supervision models. These are competency-based, developmental, treatment-based and integrated. Each form has different expected outcomes, and each one contributes to helping you as a substance abuse counselor to be the best professional possible. Based on your individual needs, your CS will choose the model that will be most likely to help you focus on any areas where you may need to focus your skill-building. Your CS also focuses on the needs of each of your clients, your agency’s legal and ethical boundaries and the goals your agency is working to meet.

Continuing Education and License Renewal Requirements

When you choose CE courses, do so with four aims in mind:

  • Expand on your knowledge of planning and evaluating treatment plans using the treatment interventions you are familiar with. Your CE choices should also help you to be more comfortable in implementing any treatment plans
  • Developing an understanding of drug dependency and alcoholism
  • Becoming more skilled in conducting assessments on your clients so you can develop the most accurate diagnosis of their issues. When you have achieved this, you’ll be able to create an appropriate treatment plan
  • Increasing your knowledge and skills in diagnosing, preventing and treating alcoholism and drug dependency issues in your clients

Associations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Oklahoma

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In Oklahoma, mental health specialists and licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselors can connect with each other when they join one of the state associations in the state.

Located within the Oklahoma Public Health Department, the Alcohol and Drug Counselors association makes it possible for you to network with other counselors. You’re more likely to be able to find information that helps you to work with your clients. Use this association as a hub where you can meet counselors from other agencies in Oklahoma. Based in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Association - Alcohol is specifically designed for counselors who work with alcoholics. You’ll also be able to connect with other counselors, so you can exchange ideas in working with your clientele. Also based in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services meets the broadest needs for the widest group of counselors. This state organization assists counselors and addicts as they look for answers.

This organization also reaches out to people in recovery who are interested in becoming recovery support specialists. These individuals have life experience in addiction. With this in their background, they have unique points of view that other addicts and counselors can use in treatment. Like counselors, recovery support specialists are required to accumulate continuing education credits so they can become credentialed to work with addicts in their area. Also based in Oklahoma City.