Substance Abuse Counselor Certification in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the same governmental entity is responsible for licensing both substance abuse facilities and substance abuse counselors. Substance abuse workers often, but not always, hold state licensure. They may be exempt under state regulation for any of several reasons, including employing facility.

State-licensed facilities, though, are subject to state regulation. Personnel must meet standards. Facilities must, for example, make an effort to employ staff members who speak the dominant language of the clientele served. They must utilize a multidisciplinary team of professionals; this may include 1) substance abuse counselors who hold relevant degrees at the bachelor's and master's level and 2) substance abuse counselors who hold certification or licensing. Facilities must also provide adequate training and supervision (as defined in state regulation).

Some professionals will hold third party certification through the Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification (http://www.mbsacc.org/) MSACC is a member board of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, or IC&RC (http://internationalcredentialing.org/memberboards). There is some similarity in requirements between alcohol and drug counseling certification and licensure.

Some professionals will offer substance abuse services on the authority of another qualifying health license. The qualifying license may be in any of a number of disciplines, from nursing to social work.

There are many pathways and many in-state resources.

Capella University offers three online CACREP - accredited Master's programs: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy and School Counseling. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.

Antioch University offers a new Online MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that is in the CACREP accreditation process and mirrors the CACREP-accredited program delivered on campus. Specializations in: Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling (SAAC) and Counseling Military Service Personnel and their Families (MSPF). Antioch is a private, not-for-profit university. (*This program is NOT available to students in CA, IL, IA, KS, MO, NH, ND)

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Achieving Licensure through the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services

There are two levels of substance abuse counseling licensure: Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor I (LADC I) and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor II (LADC II). The LADC I is an independent license; it requires a graduate degree. Licensees at the LADC I level may receive insurance reimbursement if they hold master's degrees in behavioral science.

The LADC II, on the other hand, grants the authority to practice only under clinical supervision. The Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor Assistant (LADC Assistant) is a lower designation yet; individuals with this title provide recovery services under administrative and clinical supervision.

Licensure as a LADC I: A person can be licensed as an LADC I on the basis of a behavioral science degree at the master's or doctoral level. The person will need 18 semester hours of coursework that are at least related to counseling.

He or she will need to complete a 270 hour program that offers preparation for a substance abuse counseling role. 110 hours will be devoted to developing knowledge of alcoholism and drug abuse. 75 will be devoted to counseling, including assessment, clinical evaluation, case management, and treatment planning. Another 75 will be devoted to topics such as providing drug-related education and/ or handling co-existing issues. The remaining ten hours are devoted to professional issues.

The prospective LADC I will need300 hours of practicum with at least ten hours devoted to each of 12 core alcohol and drug counseling functions. Fully 6,000 hours of experience are required before a license can be granted at the LADC I level.

Licensure as a LADC I: The lower designation, LADC II, does not require a college degree. A person who holds a degree at at least the baccalaureate level, though, will be able to waive 2,000 hours (or one full-time year) of the experience requirement. (Prospective alcohol and drug counselors should be aware that employers often do require degrees.)

Some LADC II requirements are the same as those required at the LADC I level. The prospective licensee will need 270 hours of related education and must have minimum hours in each of four categories. The individual will also need 300 hours of practicum. The experience requirement is 6,000 hours (unless a qualifying degree is held.

LADC Assistant: A Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor Assistant is an individual at least 18 years of age who has accrued 2,000 hours of experience and has completed at least ten hours of continuing education in each of five mandated areas: assessment; case management; counseling; education of client, family, and community; and professional responsibility. In short, a licensed assistant is not quite at the entry-level.

The Examination and Licensing Process

An applicant for licensure at any level must pass an examination. The Department can grant waiver of examination to substance abuse counselors certified by any of several recognized organizations. The term ‘reciprocity’ is sometimes used when an out-of-state-counselor is licensed without examination.

Massachusetts now utilizes an eLicensing system. Applicants may send email or telephone request for access (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/substance-abuse/providers/forms/license-apps-and-forms.html). They can expect to provide letters of reference and evaluation as part of their application packages.

Achieving Certification through the Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification

MBSACC grants alcohol and drug counseling certification at three levels; the highest level is also reserved for graduate level practitioners.

The qualification process for third party certification includes the same basic components. However, there are some significant differences. A master’s level practitioner can achieve the highest level of third party certification (Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II, or CADC II) after just 2,000 hours of experience. An individual with an associate’s degree who is applying for CADC I can be credited with 1,000 hours of experience.

Additional Information

Licensing information is available from the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/substance-abuse/providers/alcohol-and-drug-counselor/). BSAS can be reached at 508-842-8707 or by telephone at 'Questions.BSAS at state.ma.us'. Governing code for Massachusetts substance abuse facilities and licensed substance abuse counselors can be found online (http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/substance-abuse/public-health-regulations-substance-abuse.html). Requirements are subject to change.

Information about IC&RC certification in Massachusetts is available from the Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification (http://www.mbsacc.org).

Careers of Substance, a collaborative effort of Massachusetts stakeholders, has provided various resources for individuals who are considering entering the substance abuse field (http://www.careersofsubstance.org/). The website includes a chart that compares Massachusetts certification and license requirements. It also includes job postings. The organization notes that opportunities for advancement in the substance abuse field include supervisory, administrative, and case management roles.

The Massachusetts Association of Alcoholism and Drug Counselors, the state affiliate of the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), is another source of career information; the website includes resources for members and nonmembers alike (http://maadac-ma.org/).

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