Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in Alabama

Standards for Alabama substance abuse counselors are delineated in Alabama administrative code. The term ‘Qualified Substance Abuse Professional’ indicates that an individual has met state standards; it is sometimes shortened to QSAP. QSAP I is the highest qualification; an individual must hold a master’s degree to reach this level. QSAP II and QSAP III are lower designations; they may be achieved with a bachelor’s.

Substance abuse counselors who do not hold licensing in another health care field will eventually need to be certified, but degreed counselors may work under ‘qualified’ status for a limited time period while working to achieve certification.

Substance abuse facilities are allowed to employ ‘qualified paraprofessionals’ to carry out some duties.

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Substance Abuse Counselors with Education below the Master’s Level

Individuals may qualify for QSAP I or II on the strength of a bachelor’s. Psychology, social work, community rehabilitation, pastoral care, and family therapy are among the degree options. Other behavioral health degrees may be accepted if they include relevant clinical coursework.

The QSAP II requires two years of “relevant clinical experience”. A QSAP III who has not yet achieved certification must be under the supervision of a QSAP I.

An individual can be qualified on the basis of a license in registered nursing or bachelor’s level social work.

Substance Abuse Counselors with Master’s Degrees

Substance abuse professionals with master’s degrees may be qualified on the basis of 1) licensing in a health discipline or 2) a combination of education, experience and certification.

A professional may be qualified as a QSAP I on the basis of licensure as one of the following: psychologist, physician, physician’s assistant, psychiatric nurse practitioner, psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, professional counselor, certified social worker, or marriage and family therapist.

A non-licensed individual who holds a master’s degree in a qualifying field and has completed a practicum is also eligible for QSAP I status, but not at the entry level.

With a master’s in psychology, counseling, social work, or psychiatric nursing (or with a master’s in another behavioral health field and sufficient coursework to establish equivalency), a professional can work as a QSAP II. He or she must work under the supervision of a QSAP I until such time as certification has been earned.

Qualifying Certifications

The Alabama Department of Mental Health recognizes certifications granted by the following:

  • Alabama Alcohol and Drug Association
  • Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors
  • International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (IC & RC)
  • National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC)

The Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors, an affiliate of NAADAC, offers the State Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) as an entry-level credential (https://www.naadac.org/assets/2416/alabama_cert_application_packet.pdf). Two years of work experience is required. The individual must have 60 hours of training in substance use disorder; the training must include six hours each in ethics and HIV/ AIDS. The applicant must be a member of a professional organization. Additionally, four qualifying points are required. Qualifying points may be earned for relevant college degrees, participation in self-help groups, and substance abuse training and work experience that go beyond the minimum requirements. The maximum allowed for self-help group participation is two points.

The National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors offers the National Certified Counselor I and II (NAC I and II) and MAC certifications (http://www.naadac.org/certification). Among the requirements is state licensure or certification; in the case of the MAC, credentialing may be in a related field. A candidate can meet the state certification obligation by applying first to the Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors. Requirements are higher than they are for the CAC. A NAC I must have three years of experience and 270 hours of education. A MAC must have a master’s degree (http://www.naadac.org/mac). There are separate examinations for NAC I, NAC II, and MAC certifications.

The Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association is a member board of the Certification and Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (IC & RC). There are boards in most U.S. states. Each branch of the U.S. military has one. In order to be certified by the Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association at the lowest (non-reciprocal) level, an individual needs a high school diploma or equivalency and one year of experience (https://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/iea/partnerships/index.html). The individual will need 140 hours of education and 150 hours of supervision. It will be necessary to pass a state examination.

The Alabama Certified Addictions Counselor (ACAP), a reciprocal level certification, requires 300 hours of supervision and 270 hours of relevant education. The education must be taken at accredited colleges or universities; at least ten hours must be devoted to each of the core functions: intake, assessment, client orientation, treatment planning, counseling, referral, crisis intervention, client education, case management, consultation with other professionals, and report and record keeping. The candidate must take the IC & RC written examination. The amount of experience will depend on the degree earned. 6,000 hours of work experience is required if the candidate does not have a qualifying degree. A human services bachelor’s substitutes for 2,000 while a human services master’s substitutes for 4,000.

The Application Process

An individual may initiate the certification process by visiting the website of the Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (http://www.aadaa.us/certification-membership/) or downloading the Alabama Association of Addiction Counselor Certification Board application packet (http://www.naadac.org/alabama). Candidates should make sure they have the most current version of the application.

Certification through either organization will require submission of professional evaluation forms as well as documentation of education. Candidates will sign a code of ethics and pay fees.

A candidate who goes through AAACCB should expect to pay $110 for NAADC membership and $250 for state certification; an individual who qualifies for NCAC certification will pay an additional $70 to NAADC.

Contacts for Additional Information

Substance abuse counselors are subject to regulations of the Alabama Department of Mental Health Substance Abuse Services (https://mh.alabama.gov/division-of-mental-health-substance-abuse-services/).

Standards for Alabama substance abuse counselors are delineated in Alabama administrative code (http://www.alabamaadministrativecode.state.al.us/docs/mhlth/580-9-44.pdf)

The Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association can be contacted at (256) 796-4490. Contact information for the Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors can be found on the NAADAC site (http://www.naadac.org/alabama).