Alcohol and Drug Counselor License Requirements in Tennessee

Tennessee substance abuse counselors are licensed by the Tennessee Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors. There were changes to the licensing structure in 2015. The state recognizes two levels of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Level II licensure is for professionals who are educated at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Level I licensure can be obtained without a degree (or with a non-related bachelor’s degree); the prospective licensee will, however, need considerable role-specific education. The scope of practice is different for the two licenses. Only a professional licensed at Level II can go into private practice.

The process is rigorous at either level. Prospective licensees will not achieve licensure until after a period of supervised work experience. They must provide multiple documents demonstrating professional judgment and competence as well as good character and background. Tennessee alcohol and drug counselors first come under Board jurisdiction when completing supervised practice requirements.

Tennessee uses standards set by the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). Prospective licensees take NAADAC examinations and adhere to the NAADAC code of ethics.

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LADC Educational Requirements

All LADCs must have 270 hours of alcohol and drug education. Education must include eight identified domains. Qualifying education may take any of several forms, including formal workshops and community college coursework. The student must have ethics training.

In order to be eligible for eventual licensure at Level II, the student must either 1) earn a degree at the bachelor’s level in a behavioral health field or 2) earn a graduate degree in any field.

Supervised Work Experience

The minimum supervised work period will range from one to three full-time years (or the part-time equivalent). Volunteer experience can be credited under certain circumstances. A volunteer must work under a written job description.

The prospective licensee must be under the supervision of a Qualified Clinical Supervisor. Experience is to include all eight identified domains. The supervisor will evaluate the candidate for licensing purposes.

The amount of experience required for a Level II license depends on degree level and type. A professional with a behavioral health degree must accrue 4,000 hours. A professional with a master’s degree in a field other than behavioral health must also accrue 4,000 hours. With a behavioral health degree at the master’s or doctoral level, though, the requirement is just 2,000 hours.

The Examination Process

A Tennessee candidate must go through a multi-step examination process. Written examination comes before oral examination. The NAADAC I is used to assess Level I candidates; the NAADAC II is used to assess Level II candidates. In either case, the Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) examination can also be accepted.

The Board will grant examination authorization after reviewing application documents. A candidate who does not pass the written examination is expected to take the next scheduled examination.

An oral examination candidate will appear before three members of the Board or three professionals selected by the Board. A candidate who fails the oral examination once may retake it without retaking the written examination.

Tennessee also mandates jurisprudence examination, but this is open book and can be completed on one’s own time. An applicant will submit the completed exam with his or her application. An applicant who does not pass will need to re-submit the document; the application file cannot be considered complete until the examination has been completed successfully.

Out-of-State Applicants

Applicants who have held licensing in any healthcare discipline, past or present, will be required to submit clearance; the form is included in the application packet.

Out-of-state alcohol and drug counselors can be considered for reciprocity. Reciprocity applicants do not go through the entire examination process but do need to submit the jurisprudence examination.

The Application Process

Application forms can be downloaded from the website of the Tennessee Department of Health (http://tn.gov/health/article/AD-applications). The applicant will submit a case study along with a three page paper that outlines his or her treatment philosophy; guiding questions are found in the application packet.

The applicant will provide a notarized birth certificate. Third party documents are to be sent directly to the Board.

The applicant will need to provide two recent character letters from professionals in mental health disciplines; at least one is to come from a professional who is licensed as an alcohol and drug counselor.

The licensing agency requires a criminal history check. The approved vendor is Identogo. The Department of Health has provided detailed instructions for both in-state and out-of-state applicants (http://tn.gov/health/topic/CBC-check). Out-of-state applicants may have their prints made locally, then submit them for electronic processing.

Application, regulatory, and licensing fees total $310.

The applicant will fill out a mandatory practitioner profile questionnaire; information will be made available to the public..

Final approval is granted by the Board. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis but must be received well in advance of a meeting in order to be placed on the agenda.

Alcohol and drug counselors are expected to complete 15 contact hours of continuing education a year. Continuing education may take the form of academic coursework or of other approved activities such as events sponsored by professional associations. Certain types of training activity are not creditable (http://tn.gov/health/article/AD-coedu).

Additional Information

Licensing information is available from the Tennessee Department of Health (http://tn.gov/health/article/AD-about). The Board can be reached by telephone at (615) 741-5735 or (800) 778-4123.

Additional resources include the Tennessee Association of Alcoholism and Drug Counselors (http://www.naadac.org/tennessee) and the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug, and Other Addiction Services (https://www.taadas.org/membership-info). TAADAC is the Tennessee NAADAC affiliate.

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