Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification and License Requirements in Vermont

Vermont's regulatory process for substance abuse counselors recently changed. As of 2016, the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) has the responsibility of certifying and licensing alcohol and drug counselors and apprentice addiction professionals. (In the previous system, master’s level practitioners were licensed while the unlicensed personnel who worked under them were certified by a third party organization).

Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) remains a master's level designation; some requirements, however, have become more stringent. Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and Apprentice Addiction Professional (AAP) are bachelor's level under the proposed regulations. The AAP designation is specifically for individuals who are employed within the Preferred Provider Network of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP). CADCs currently certified by the Vermont Alcohol and Drug Abuse Certification Board can apply for transitional certification as can LADCs licensed by the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs.

Some standards, including minimum academic and supervised practice requirements for the state’s highest credential, are set down in law. Many requirements, however, are left to the Director of the Office of Regulation. Administrative rules were proposed in August of 2016.

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Alcohol and Drug Counseling Scope of Practice

LADCs have a higher scope of practice than ADCs. They are responsible for supervising both ADCs and AAPs. Since late 2015, they have been allowed to independently bill Medicaid for services. The Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (ADAC) and the OPR reported in early 2016 that there were 395 LADCs in Vermont (https://www.sec.state.vt.us/professional-regulation/list-of-professions/alcohol-drug-abuse-counselors/resources.aspx). There were 216 ADCs and 214 AAPs.

ADAC and OPR noted that alcohol and drug counseling fell under the allowable scope of practice of various other practitioners, including mental health counselors and clinical social workers -- and that demand for alcohol and drug counseling services within Vermont was high.

CADC/ AAP Requirements

A prospective Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor will need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. A worker will need at least 40 hours of alcohol and drug counseling education before he or she can be issued an Apprentice Addiction Professional. Six hours must be in ethics. AAP education must be specific to alcohol and drug counseling. A three semester hour course can be credited as 45 hours. The Office of Professional Regulation offers 'depression' as an example of a non-qualifying course topic.

In order to progress to ADC (counselor) level, the worker will need 300 hours of substance abuse education. Education is to address the content described in state rule. The following topics are among those cited:

  • Human development
  • Substance use screening
  • Motivational interviewing/engagement strategies
  • Neurobiology of substance abuse and addiction
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) placement criteria
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Co-occurring medical disorders

The prospective ADC will need to accrue 4,000 supervised work experience hours. The requirement cannot be met in less than two years. The regulatory authority can credit experience up to five years in the past; this is figured from the time that all application requirements are met. The supervisor is to be a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor or a practitioner who holds credentials in medicine, psychiatry, or osteopathy. An AAP must have at least one hour of supervision for every 20 hours worked.

The candidate will take the Alcohol and Drug counselor (ADC) examination, developed by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (AC&RC).

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselors

Out-of-state substance abuse counselors may qualify for endorsement if the standards are determined to be similar or higher.

An alcohol and drug counselor certified by the Vermont Alcohol and Drug Abuse Certification Board can receive a transitional certification by documenting 40 hours of continuing education. (The ORC will also require an application form, fee, and documentation of certification.

LADC Requirements

A prospective LADC will need a master's degree in a behavioral science discipline, allied mental health discipline, or qualifying health discipline. The course of study will include human development theories, counseling and diagnostic techniques, and professional ethics. The student will need to complete a supervised practicum and internship.

While the current standard is 48 semester hours, it will soon increase to 60 semester hours; the higher standard applies to those who receive their degrees after July 1, 2019. The Office of Professional Regulation plans to allow graduates of programs that were at least 48 semester hours but fewer than 60 to complete the credit hour requirement post-master.

A student who opts for an addiction counseling program that is accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) can expect to have 60 semester hours included within his or her degree program.

A LADC will need at least 300 hours of education that is specific to alcohol and drug counseling. Required content is the same as it is at the ADC level.

The LADC post-graduate experience requirement is 2,000 hours. The master's practicum is not credited toward this requirement. No more than 40 hours can be credited per week. Beginning in 2017, those working toward LADC licensure will need to be registered as non-licensed and non-certified psychotherapists.

The prospective LADC will need to pass the IC&RC Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor Examination.

An out-of-state substance abuse counselor may demonstrate qualifications through certification by a member board of the IC&RC or certification through an approved national organization.

The Application Process

The OPR website includes an application and forms page (https://www.sec.state.vt.us/professional-regulation/list-of-professions/alcohol-drug-abuse-counselors/forms-and-applications.aspx).

Applicants will need official transcripts to document their degrees. Alcohol and drug counseling coursework can be documented through transcripts or certificates.

The current fee is $100 at either the ADC or LADC level.

Additional Information

Licensing and certification information is available from the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation. Contact information for individual staff members can be found on the program homepage (https://www.sec.state.vt.us/professional-regulation/list-of-professions/alcohol-drug-abuse-counselors.aspx). The resources page includes a 2016 report to the legislature which described the status of the profession (https://www.sec.state.vt.us/professional-regulation/list-of-professions/alcohol-drug-abuse-counselors/resources.aspx).

The Vermont Addiction Counselors Association is the state chapter of the national addiction counseling association, NAADAC (http://www.naadac.org/vermont).

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