If your goal is to become a substance abuse counselor in Wyoming you've made an excellent choice. Due to the growing opiate crisis, changes in the judicial treatment of drug offenders, and other factors the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports job openings for counselors in Wyoming are projected to grow by 18 percent in the next decade. In addition, substance abuse counselors in the state enjoy a median annual income of $56,560, which is over $13,000 higher than the national average. Couple with the low cost of living in Wyoming you can expect to make an excellent living in a job field you love.
While you can begin your career in counseling with an Associate's degree the fact of the matter is that over 50 percent of substance abuse counselors hold a Master's degree or higher. You should make your long-term plans accordingly and make at least a Master's your educational goal. The highest paid 10 percent of substance abuse counselors in Wyoming earn over $80,000 per year so your degree will pay off quickly once you achieve your higher certification.
Licensure for substance abuse counseling is overseen by the Wyoming Mental Health Professions Licensing Board (WMHPLB), which awards three main certifications for counselors: Certified Addictions Practitioner Assistant (CAPA), Certified Addictions Practitioner (CAP) and Licensed Addictions Therapist (LAT). Each certification requires a specific amount of education, training, and experience; all licensure candidates must pass a criminal background check when they apply for their license.
Once you meet the educational and supervised clinical training criteria for the certification you're earning you will apply to the WMHPLB and take the exam required for your level. Your supervised training must meet state guidelines in order to be accepted for licensure.
When you receive your certification you'll be required to renew it on a regular basis. During the period your license is valid you must complete state specific continuing education requirements before your certification will be renewed.
Because the requirements are exact and quite involved it's a good idea to join one or more professional organizations as soon as you're ready to enroll in your substance abuse counselor education program. Membership in these organizations will provide mentorship, networking opportunities, and many other benefits that will help you on your journey to licensure.
Wyoming addiction counselors receive their credentials from the Mental Health Professionals Licensing Board. Licensing or certification is mandatory. Credentials are issued at multiple levels. In order to achieve the Licensed Addictions Therapist (LAT) credential, a person must earn a master’s degree, pass an examination, and complete a supervised practice requirement. The PAT (Provisional Addictions Therapist) credential authorizes supervised practice.
The CAP (Certified Addictions Practitioner) can be achieved with a bachelor’s degree; the CAPA (Certified Addictions Practitioner Assistant) requires addiction-specific coursework. Both credentials are dependent on examination. Practitioners work under ongoing supervision
Types of Licensure for Wyoming
As mentioned above Wyoming has three levels of licensure for substance abuse counselors: Certified Addictions Practitioner Assistant (CAPA), Certified Addictions Practitioner (CAP) and Licensed Addictions Therapist (LAT). All levels require a background check and all educational requirements must be from a Council for Higher Education Accreditation accredited institution of higher learning. Here's a look at the requirements for each certification:
Certified Addictions Practitioner Assistant (CAPA) Requirements
- Earn at least an associate's degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling, addiction studies, or similar program as approved by the Board
- Complete 270 hours of education and/or training with a minimum 200 hours specific to addictions, six hours of communicable diseases coursework, and at least 30 hours of counseling ethics. Up to 70 hours may be in general mental health subjects not specific to addiction.
- Pass the National Association for Addictions Professionals (NAADAC) NCAC Level I exam
Certified Addictions Practitioner (CAP) Requirements
- Earn a bachelor's degree or higher in chemical dependency, substance abuse, or a related addiction subject as approved by the Board. Courses must include the following:
- Addictions Assessment
- Addictions and Special Populations
- Addictive Behaviors
- Alcoholism, Drugs and Behavior
- Compulsive Behaviors
- Counseling Ethics (two hours)
- Counseling Skills
- Counseling Theories (three hours)
- Methods and Techniques of Individual and Group Counseling (three hours)
- Theories and Principles of Counseling and Psychotherapy
- Complete a practicum in Addictions/Chemical Dependency Counseling
- Pass the NAADAC NCAC Level II exam OR the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor exam (AODA)
Licensed Addictions Therapist (LAT) Requirements
- Earn a master's degree or higher in Chemical Dependency Counseling or Healing Arts; other mental health disciplines are generally accepted at the discretion of the Board with the following criteria:
- Counseling theory (three hours)
- Counseling practice (three hours)
- Ethics (three hours)
- Alcoholism, drugs, and behavior (10 hours)
- Addictive behavior (10 hours)
- Addictions assessment (10 hours)
- Addictions and special populations (10 hours)
- communicable diseases (six hours)
- Addiction counseling practicum
- 3,000 hours of clinically supervised work in alcohol or drug abuse counseling, 1,200 hours of which must be in face-to-face client contact and 100 hours of face-to-face supervision. All hours must be post-Master's degree.
- Pass the NAADAC NCAC Master Addiction Counselor exam (MAC) or the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Master Addiction Counselor exam (MAC)
First, you should verify that your school of choice holds accreditation by a regional or national agency that is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or CHEA. This will guarantee all the credits you earn will be accepted by the Wyoming Mental Health Professions Licensing Board (WMHPLB) when you're ready to apply for certification.
Although you can begin your certification with an Associate's degree you'll need to earn a Master's to qualify as an LAT so you should keep this in mind throughout your education. Make sure your Associate's credits can be applied to your Bachelor's program and Master's degree.
When you are ready to take your Master's practicum make sure it qualifies under the board requirement for clinical supervision so you will be ready to begin accumulating your work experience as soon as you have your Master's.
Testing Process for Wyoming
When you're ready to apply for certification you may download the appropriate application from the Board website. You will need to submit the following:
- Citizenship or legal status
- Professional disclosure statement
- Three professional references
- Supervision agreement
- Official school transcripts (email, fax, and USPS mail accepted directly from school)
- Fees as follows (may change in time): CAPA $300, CAP $300, LAT $350
Once your application has been accepted as complete you will be notified that you are eligible to sit for the appropriate exam.
Clinical Supervision Explained
Clinical supervision is the portion of your training done under a state licensed clinical supervisor. Your supervisor will help you become a fully rounded counselor and will provide training in a wide variety of areas such as:
- Auditing of patient files
- Case review and discussion of active cases
- Counselor development
- Counselor skill assessment and performance evaluation
- Direct observation of treatment
- Staff management and administration
- Teaching professional responsibility
Your supervisor will help you develop the core function, professional development and growth, and competency in the core foundations. They will also be tasked with logging your required supervised hours and reporting the same on your credential application.
Renewal and Continuing Education
Your license will expire every two years on your birthday; you will receive a notice about 60 days before expiration. During those two years you will be required to complete 45 hours of continuing education in the substance abuse field. Your continuing education (CE) requirement can be met in a variety of ways such as:
- Accredited coursework (one semester credit equals 15 CE hours)
- Making presentations (six hours maximum)
- CE courses through NAADAC
You are responsible for tracking your CE hours as well as providing proof of the coursework you have taken.
As soon as you enroll in school you should join one or more professional organizations for substance abuse counselors. Membership in a professional association will provide networking opportunities, mentorship, and many other benefits such as advocacy opportunities, information on upcoming conferences, seminars, and workshops, and the latest information on legislative news that can affect your profession. You'll also find continuing education courses, discounts on books and magazines, and information on job openings in the state. Because substance abuse counseling is a tough job with a high burnout rate it's important that you build a strong support network as soon as you begin your career. There are many national organizations for substance abuse counselors as well as two that are based in Wyoming. Here's a list to get you started:
- Wyoming Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC)
- Wyoming Counseling Association
- American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA)
- Association of Christian Alcohol & Drug Counselors (ACADC)