Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in Oklahoma: The Path to Becoming a Licensed and Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor

Oklahoma substance abuse counselors are credentialed by a governmental board, the Oklahoma Board of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors. Licensees must be at least 21 years of age and have good moral character. Credentialing also depends on meeting requirements for post-secondary education, supervised practice, and examination. The Board issues separate credentials to bachelor's and master’s degree holders.

There have been changes in recent years. Some educational standards have gone up.

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LADC Education and Experience Requirements

Oklahoma, like many states, requires Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors to earn master's degrees through appropriately accredited colleges or universities. Educational standards, however, are more stringent than they are in many states. LADCs must either earn their master's degrees specifically in substance abuse counseling or demonstrate content-equivalent master's degrees; this requirement has been in place since 2012.

The student will need three courses each in foundational concepts and in behavioral health assessment and treatment. Foundational courses include drug and alcohol addiction, drug and alcohol addiction counseling, and pharmacology (as it relates to drug abuse). The assessment and treatment requirement can be met through various courses, including those which deal with group dynamics, individual counseling, particular types of treatment approach, and referral to community resources.

The student will need to complete a practicum as part of his or her academic program. He or she will need to demonstrate at least one graduate level course in each of the following:

  • Human development
  • Multicultural competency
  • Family systems theory
  • Theory of addiction in family systems
  • Counseling families that have addicted family members
  • Ethics

The ethics course is to include substance abuse counselor content. Courses may be three semester hours or four quarter hours.

The LADC candidate will need to accrue at least 2,000 experience hours. At least half must consist of direct client contact. The candidate is expected to meet face-to-face with a supervisor for at least one hour every week. Approved supervisors can be located through a "member" search of the Board website. The Board will require 300 practicum hours. At least 10 must be devoted to each of 12 core alcohol and drug counseling functions.

New Jersey allows an alternate pathway for licensed mental health professionals. They must complete 15 semester hours of master's level substance abuse counseling coursework.

CADC Education and Experience Requirements

A CADC must have a bachelor's degree in a behavioral science/ counseling discipline. He or she must have 270 hours of substance abuse counseling coursework. The Board requires 45 hours of training in co-occurring disorders; a class in abnormal psychology should cover the required content.

The supervised practical training requirement is the same for CADC candidates as it is for LADC candidates. The experience requirement is higher: A bachelor’s level candidate must work fully 4,000 hours.

Examination Requirements

Oklahoma uses examinations developed by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium.

Candidates are referred to the Oklahoma Drug & Alcohol Professional Counselor Association (ODAPCA) for testing (http://www.odapca.org/). They may not, however, submit applications to ODAPCA until after they have received permission from the Oklahoma Board. They will need to have met prerequisite requirements. This may take place well after initial application.

The candidate will go through a two-step examination process. The written examination is the first one attempted. The next is oral examination. The candidate will need to prepare a case presentation in preparation for the oral exam.

The Application Process

Prospective substance abuse counselors submit applications before all requirements have been met. They are considered candidates while working toward licensure or certification.

A number of supplementary materials are to be submitted at the time of initial application. Among them are official transcripts, a personal counseling philosophy statement, and three references. The Board requires candidates to submit supervision contracts. The application fee is $140. Application forms are to be notarized and mailed to the Board office in Oklahoma City.

Applicants are expected to be familiar with rules (including ethical standards). They can expect correspondence from the Board after their initial materials have been screened. They will be informed of what is in their files and what remaining requirements must be met before testing authorization can be granted.

Applicants will submit additional paperwork as they meet requirements; this may include, for example, documentation of co-occurring disorders coursework and practicum. A supervision log and general supervision evaluation will eventually be required.

Application materials and instructions can be downloaded from the Board website (http://www.okdrugcounselors.org/forms.php).

Private/ Independent Practice

Achieving a credential does not automatically make a person eligible for private or independent practice. An LADC must have at least two years (4,000 hours) of experience. A CADC must have three years (6,000 hours) of experience and must be under the supervision of a LADC.

Co-Occurring Disorders

A person who completes the currently mandated graduate education for the Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) credential will have also met educational requirements for treatment of co-occurring disorders and will be on his or her way to earning a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor-Mental Health (LADC-MH) credential. Those licensed as LADCs have multiple pathways to earn the “MH” designation.

Prospective licensees should be aware that rules were proposed in 2016 that could potentially impose additional requirements for counselors wishing to earn the LADH-MH designation and scope of practice.

CADCs have a much more limited role in serving clients with co-occurring disorders. However, there were also rules proposed recently that would impose additional requirements for bachelor's level counselors who wished to recognize/ integrate co-occurring disorders.

Additional Information

Licensing information is available from the Oklahoma Board of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (http://www.okdrugcounselors.org/). The Board can be reached by telephone at (405) 521-0779. Additional contact information can be found online (http://www.okdrugcounselors.org/contact.php).

Both current and proposed rules can be accessed from the Board website (http://www.okdrugcounselors.org/laws.php).

Additional professional resources include the Oklahoma Association for Addiction Professionals (http://www.naadac.org/oklahoma) and the Oklahoma Association of Addiction Counselors (https://www.naadac.org/oklahoma) The Oklahoma Association for Addiction Professionals is the state affiliate of the Association for Addiction Professionals, or NAADAC. The Oklahoma Association of Addiction Counselors is a division of the Oklahoma Counseling Association.

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