Addictions Counselor Certification: Why Should I Get It?

Research and clinical practice has demonstrated that co-occurring disorders (addictions and mental health issues occurring together) are the rule, not the exception. This leaves many people who were trained as psychologists, mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists at a great disadvantage, both clinically and professionally. They are at a clinical disadvantage, because addictions counseling requires a very different counseling approach than most counselors use. Professionally they are at a disadvantage because many insurance companies, agencies and Medicaid are starting to require certification in addictions counseling to work with clients who have addictions.

So, what are the options? Most of us do not want to go back to school to get yet another degree. The good news is that getting your precertification training for addictions counseling is easy. You can take online courses such as those offered at or, go to conferences or take college courses. In most states, any addictions certification is sufficient. The National Association for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) both offer national addictions certifications. Your other option is to get certified in your home state. Many states now have boards that offer certification as an addictions professional. The down side to state certifications is that they do not transfer if you move out of state.

But I am doing addictions counseling now and am not certified. Why should I jump through all of those hoops? Well, there are several reasons: Ethics, effectiveness, earning potential. All professional codes of ethics state that you must be appropriately trained to provide services to your target population. Therefore, if you are licensed or certified in mental health or psychology, you are expected to gain the extra education necessary to effectively serve your population. As I stated earlier, addictions counseling is far different than traditional Rogerian “talk therapy.” To be effective as an addictions counselor, you must understand the addiction, how it has become the person’s best fiend, why they do not want to give it up and cognitive-behavioral and solution-focused strategies to help them make the change. Finally, earning potential. Addictions certifications open up a whole new set of employment opportunities. Additionally, many agencies will pay more for someone with an addictions certification, versus someone with only a mental health counseling license or no license at all.

In this age of addictive behavior: alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, gambling, the internet and sex, it is vitally important that clinicians can identify and treat addictive behaviors. In persons with co-occurring disorders, it is even more important, because alcohol or drug abuse and eating disorders all impact the dosage and effectiveness of psychotropic medications. Visit NAADAC at: for more information.

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