Substance abuse counselors are mental health professionals that work correctly with people dealing with chemical dependencies. Their work differs by client and setting, but they may lead support groups and one-on-one counseling sessions, as well as help patients develop a clear path toward recovery.

The state of Rhode Island offers prospective counselors several different options for getting started on this career path, a relatively low barrier to entry. Still, those who wish to pursue a stable career may fare best with an advanced degree.

Substance Abuse Counselor Job Description


Counselors may find work in nonprofit organizations, as well as for-profit rehab clinics, and government-run organizations that provide counseling services.

Generally, substance abuse counselors perform evaluations for patients and develop a personalized plan for recovery; over the course of counseling, this plan may change depending on the patient's needs and progress.

While it’s not a prerequisite, a successful counselor should have some connections in the social services community. For example, this could be relationships with medical providers or job training programs that benefit recovering patients.

There are counseling certifications for those at all educational levels. A candidate with a GED or an associate's degree will need to obtain more logged working credentials on their way to certification than someone with a master's degree.

But, Rhode Island is unique in that one can advance within this field without going back to school. Instead, you can opt to move up by gaining hands-on experience. Still, if you wish to obtain the advanced certification, you will need that advanced degree to go with it.

Types of Licensure in the State of Rhode Island


Like other states, aspiring Rhode Island professionals have a few different paths they can take toward earning certification. The Rhode Island Board website emphasizes that there are several ways of getting to the final goal of accreditation—depending on your education level when you begin the training process.

The three "main options" are differentiated by education level, and are as follows:

  • Provisional Alcohol and Drug Counselor (PADC)
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC)
  • Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC)

On top of those designations, addiction counseling professionals are also eligible to become certified in other related specialties.

  • Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional (CCDP)
  • Certificate of Competency in Problem Gambling
  • Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) abuse counselor in the state of Arizona, you must complete a series of steps.

Additionally, prospective counselors may gain lesser certifications as Certified Peer Recovery Specialists or Certified Community Health Workers. These options may be worth exploring if you’re in recovery yourself, are looking for a way to give back to the community, or as an means of finding out if counseling is right for you.

Education Required for Practice in the State of Rhode Island

Here is a breakdown of the education requirements you’ll need to obtain in order to become a practicing chemical dependency counselor in the state of Rhode Island.

Provisional Alcohol and Drug Counselor (PADC)

This certification is an entry-level credential. While you don't need to have a college degree, you must have a GED or high school diploma, plus 140 hours of drug and alcohol education, relevant to alcohol and drug counseling. These hours may come from seminars and workshops, as well as in-services.

Still, it may be worthwhile to look toward a community college or university instead of cobbling together your hours through seminars. For example, enrolling in a three-credit semester class can replace 45 of those required credit hours.

Additionally, education must include 12 hours of confidentiality training, as well as six hours in each of the following subjects: chemical dependency, communicable diseases, ethics, medication, and medication attitudes. Of those 12 hours of confidentiality training, eight must address 42 CRF Part 2.

Finally, one is only granted their PDCP credential after completing one year or 2000 hours of professional experience. This can be either paid or volunteer experience. Finally, the PADC candidate will need to obtain 150 hours of supervised training. Credentials are good for two years and must be kept up to maintain licensure. Candidates are not required to take an exam.

Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC)

At this level, the candidate must have a minimum of 300 hours of counseling training, and half of those hours must be specific to the subject of drug and alcohol abuse.

Like the entry-level credential, it is possible to achieve this designation without a degree, though your prospects will look a bit better if you pursue some level of higher education such as your associate’s degree or a bachelor’s.

Without a degree, you must obtain 6,000 hours (or three years) of experience. Interestingly, this is where Rhode Island differs from other states--providing counselors a means of "leveling up" by earning hours on the job.

Still, it pays to go to school. If you have an associate's degree in a relevant field, that can knock off 1,000 hours of experience. A bachelor's degree will account for 2,000 hours, while a master's degree accounts for 4,000.

Additional hours may be earned through practicum, internships, and board-approved volunteer work.

Finally, at the master’s level, you can advance to the Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC) designation. Here, because of the additional degree, hours are reduced. You’ll need 180 hours of education credits in alcohol and drug counseling, plus one year of work experience and 100 supervised hours.

Clinical Supervision Explained

All addiction professionals in Rhode Island must undergo supervised clinical practice as part of their journey through licensure. Again, the required amount of hours is dependent on the type of certification you are applying for, as well as your level of formal education.

Internships and volunteer work might count toward the required hours, but they must meet the state’s criteria.

Testing Process for Rhode Island Candidates


The testing process in Rhode Island takes place in two distinct parts. Once you’ve determined which level of certification you qualify for, you’ll need to submit your supervised hours form to the Rhode Island certification board, along with your transcript, and a few other components. The RI Certification Board provides guides for every level in pdf form, including a checklist of everything you’ll need to submit to progress with your certification.

You’ll pay the fee to earn your CADC or CAADC credential, and once approved; you’ll receive information about taking the licensing exam.

Candidates may download the documents they need from the Department of Health website. These forms serve as a series of questions, aimed at reviewing the candidate's competency. Candidates will answer questions like have they ever been licensed by the IC&RC or the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC).

Additionally, the Rhode Island board will need documentation of US citizenship or legal resident status, as well as a photo, a $75 fee, and a notarized signature.

The Board for Chemical Dependency professionals requires certification verification directly from the RICB.

The license review process will require some waiting. According to the Board for Chemical Dependency professionals, the review process may take eight or more weeks. Once the application had been approved, the candidate will now be a Licensed Chemical Dependency Professional.

Renewal/Continuing Education


As we've mentioned above, certifications are only valid for every two years and must be renewed. If you’ve obtained a provisional certificate, you must upgrade your credential to CADC or CAADC. Otherwise, you must reapply for the temporary credential.

All counselors must participate in 40 hours of documented continuing education every two years. Of those 40 hours, three must cover professional ethics as they pertain to drug and alcohol counseling.

In Rhode Island, there is no limit on the number of hours that may be completed through distance learning, so renewing your credential may not be all that time consuming for working professionals.

Rhode Island Substance Abuse Associations

You may have seen some of these organizations mentioned in the above section. Here is a little more about the organizations responsible for the licensure and professional development of Rhode Island’s substance abuse counselors.

  • Rhode Island Department of Health: The department of health is responsible for licensing chemical dependency professionals. More information is available through the Rhode Island Department of Health website.
  • Rhode Island Certification Board: This organization is your central information hub if you're looking to pursue CADC or CAADC certification. The board is responsible for approving supervision hours, evaluating transcripts, and helping candidates coordinate their exams.
  • The Rhode Island Association for Addiction Professionals: Another professional resource, this is the NAADAC chapter for Rhode Island. The NAADAC is a professional association, so you’ll need to pay an annual membership fee. The organization provides networking opportunities, ongoing training, and more, so membership may be worthwhile.
  • IC&RC: The International Credentialing Organization. This resource is a global association that provides training and credentialing in substance abuse counseling, treatment, clinical supervising, and more. According to the official website, exams and standards are updated every five or so years. in keeping with industry updates. While you’ll need to pass the IC&RC test, you can do so directly with them, or arrange the process through the ABCAC.


Rhode Island substance abuse professionals stand to make a real difference in the community, offering much-needed compassion to an often tricky and stigmatized specification.

Salaries range from $30-50k annually, depending on the level of education achieved.