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An Overview of Addiction Treatment Credentials and What They Mean

An Overview of Addiction Treatment Credentials and What They Mean

All counselors should demonstrate proficiency in their field by earning and maintaining formal credentials

Addiction treatment facilities may employ many different types of staff. Depending on the services offered, they may hire medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses, as well as nutritionists, chaplains and other personnel. The bulk of the staff, however, generally consists of counselors, who may have varying types of credentials.

Addiction counseling credentials include the following:

  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) – The American Counseling association explains that counselors with the LPC designation generally have a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling.[i] They have studied counseling strategies, ethics and human behavior and have completed an internship. Within two years of finishing their degree, they must complete at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work. LPCs must pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or a similar exam recognized by their state. Certification must be maintained through continuing education courses.
  • National Certified Addictions Counselor (NCAC) Level I – The National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals offers the opportunity to earn various credentials, including two levels of the NCAC designation.[ii] For Level l, applicants must have at least a high school diploma or GED. They must have a current substance use disorder license or credential from a credentialing agency or their state. They need at least 6,000 hours or three years of full-time supervised experience in the field, and at least 270 hours of training, including courses in ethics and HIV/AIDS. They must pass the NCAC I exam within four years of applying.
  • National Certified Addictions Counselor (NCAC) Level II – To receive level II NCAC certification, applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse disorders or a related field and current credentials or licensing as a substance use disorder counselor. They need five years or 10,000 hours of supervised experience and at least 450 hours of training. Within four years of applying, they must pass the NCAC II exam.
  • Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) – Counselors with the MAC designation have earned a Master’s degree or higher in the area of substance abuse or a related counseling field. In addition to having current substance abuse counselor credentials or licenses, they have completed at least three years or 6,000 hours of supervised experience. Their required 500 hours of education and training must include at least six hours of training in ethics and six hours in issues related to HIV/AIDS. They must pass the MAC examination with four years of applying.
  • Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) – The LADC designation is offered through a counselor’s state of residence and requirements may vary. Generally, applicants must have earned a Bachelor’s degree and some states require a Master’s degree or higher. A certain amount of clinical experience is expected, and applicants must pass a qualifying exam.
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC) – As with the LADC designation, the CADC is generally offered through a state agency. A blog associated with Assumption College notes, however, that there is no LADC reciprocity between states, but that counselors with the CADC are generally able to be employed anywhere within the country. The blog also notes that the CADC needs less formal education than the LADC, with a high school diploma being enough to start the process.[iii]
  • Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) – The International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium offers eight credentials recognized globally. One of these, the ADC, is said to be the largest credential in the field, earned by over 20,000 professionals worldwide. More than 63 countries, territories and states offer ADC credentialing.[iv]
  • Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) – The AADC credential is also offered by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium. It is currently offered by 26 countries, states and territories.[v]
  • Certified Co-occurring Disorders Professional (CCDP) – Counselors who have demonstrated proficiency in working with patients who experience both substance abuse and mental health issues can earn CCDP certification. As the importance of treating co-occurring disorders in an integrated manner is growing, so, too is the rate of CCDP certification.
  • Specializations – Credentialing organizations and state agencies may offer a variety of specializations for those who already have basic certification. These include specializations in specific drugs, populations and therapies. Counselors may also earn certification in clinical supervision, addiction prevention and criminal justice addiction issues.

Finding the Right Fit

The relationship between counselors and their patients, sometimes known as the therapeutic alliance, is an important component of successful addiction treatment. Because patients vary in their needs, personalities and preferences, it is beneficial to have counselors who also vary in their experiences and styles. All counselors, however, should demonstrate proficiency in their field and can do that by earning and maintaining formal credentials.

If you are ready to start an addiction recovery journey, we can help you find a treatment program staffed with qualified and competent counselors. We can assist you in identifying your options and finding the program that best meets your needs. The helpful consultants who staff our toll-free helpline can answer your questions and can even check your insurance coverage for you if you wish, at no cost or obligation. The helpline is available 24 hours a day. Why not call now and find your path to wholeness?


[i] “Who Are Licensed Professional Counselors?” American Counseling Association, 2011, (December 4, 2015).

[ii] “NCC AP Credentials Overview,” The Association for Addiction Professionals, (December 4, 2015).

[iii] “Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling: The differences between LADC and CADC certification and why the CADC is more important and useful,” Douglas Klier, M.A., C.A.C., Continuing and Career Education, Assumption College, (December 4, 2015).

[iv] “Alcohol and Drug Counselor,” International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, (December 4, 2015).

[v] “Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor,” International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, (December 4, 2015).