How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Alabama

Boasting a job growth rate much higher than the average for the United States, the substance abuse counselor profession is expected to grow 23% between 2016-2026, cultivating an ideal hiring environment for recent graduates. Licensing in Alabama does not necessarily require individuals to complete a specific degree, although those who hold a degree in a behavioral science field have a better understanding of the field and typically hold more of the necessary requirements to obtain certification due to their prior educational experiences.

In this guide, students can review the requirements for obtaining certification as a substance abuse counselor in Alabama, including necessary education and experience, supervised components they will need to satisfy, coursework, the exam and application process of certification, renewal requirements, and resources available to aid in networking and knowledge growth.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Alabama

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Alabama here

Education and Experience Requirements

In the following section, students can learn about the requirements they need to meet in order to accomplish substance abuse counselor certification. They can review what academic requirements to meet, what coursework they will need to complete, and supervised experience requirements. This section will allow students to best prepare themselves for the licensing process.

Academic Requirements

In order to become a substance abuse counselor in Alabama, individuals must first earn an associate or bachelor's degree in a behavioral science field. Although the state does not strictly require a certain degree to grant certification, individuals who hold a degree typically boast a greater understanding of the field, thus providing them with more points toward their certification. Earning an associate degree grants individuals two points, while a bachelor's degree grants four points. Additionally, individuals must complete substance abuse continuing education, HIV/AIDS continuing education, and ethics credits. Students can review the counseling license website to explore counseling education and career information.

Interested in pursuing an education in substance abuse counseling? See the following pages to learn about counseling academic programs by level:

Interested in pursuing an education in substance abuse counseling? See the following pages to learn about counseling academic programs by level:

Substance Abuse Counseling Coursework

Courses that prepare students for careers as substance abuse counselors explore the different types of substance use disorders as well as ways to provide diagnosis and treatment for clients. Students also learn to provide rehabilitation services and form recovery plan options. Common college majors for future substance abuse counselors in Alabama include behavioral science, addictions counseling, addictions psychology, social work, counseling, and sociology.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

For each level of certification in the field, a different amount of work experience in the substance abuse disorder field is required. Individuals pursuing state-level certification must complete two years of full-time work experience. The National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I) certification requires individuals to hold three years of full-time work experience or supervised experience totaling 6,000 hours in a substance abuse disorders field.

Exam and Application Process for Alabama Substance Abuse Counselors

To apply for substance abuse counseling certification in Alabama, individuals must be current members of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC). For their application, individuals must fill in their personal information followed by the relevant work experience and training for their desired field. Next, applicants must outline and document 100 hours of substance use disorder training.

applicants must outline and document 100 hours of substance use disorder training

Applicants must then demonstrate two years of active membership from a self-help group. To receive additional points, applicants can show proof of four or more years of participation in a group. The application also requires proof of a college degree in social work, behavior science, substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation, or a related field. Finally, individuals must document their total years of work experience and meet the two-year minimum.

Depending on their level of certification, individuals must meet different guidelines. Those seeking state certification must complete two years of work experience and clock 60 hours of training. NCAC I candidates must hold three years of work experience and clock 270 hours of training, whereas those seeking certification as a National Certified Addiction Counselor II must complete five years of work experience and 450 hours of training.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Out-of-state licensed or certified addiction or substance abuse counselors with up-to-date licensure can pursue reciprocity through the Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors certification board. To seek reciprocity, counselors must complete a separate application and demonstrate proficiency and knowledge in all eight of the primary counselor skill groups. Applicants who do not meet all of the requirements, including a passing score on the NCE written examination, are not eligible for certification until they meet the outlined requirements. All applicants should be able to demonstrate their relevant work experience, training and education, and clinical supervision hours.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Each year, certified counselors must complete 20 hours of continuing education requirements and submit documentation of their CE completion. Every two years, substance abuse counselors in Alabama must renew their license by completing continuing education requirements. Continuing education courses require students to complete four credits every two years through two courses. Additionally, substance abuse counselors must complete ethics requirements, finishing four credits every two years. Renewal exists on a quarterly schedule, and there are different renewal dates based on the month of the counselor's initial certification.

Each year, certified counselors must complete 20 hours of continuing education requirements and submit documentation of their CE completion

Resources and Organizations for Alabama Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance abuse counselor hopefuls in Alabama can explore a variety of resources and organizations in the field before and after they graduate college. Taking advantage of the resources available to them as students and professionals in the field allows individuals access to networking opportunities, professional development opportunities, and the ability to expand their skills and knowledge in the field.

  • Alabama Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association A nonprofit organization that provides quality services for clients, AADAA certifies clinical supervisors, alcohol and drug counselors, prevention specialists, and criminal justice professionals.
  • Alabama Department of Mental Health This organization serves over 200,000 citizens in Alabama who suffer from substance use disorders, mental illnesses, and intellectual disabilities.
  • Alabama Psychological Services Center Dedicated to providing comprehensive mental health services through a caring professional setting, the Alabama Psychological Services Center features a location in Huntsville and serves residents in northern Alabama.
  • Covenant Counseling and Education Center Stationed in Homewood, Alabama, Covenant Counseling and Education Center functions as a group of professional clinicians and counselors who incorporate Christian faith into practice.
  • Human Resources Development Institute HRDI in Montgomery, Alabama, offers intellectual disability programs and certified community group homes to serve individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Council on Substance Abuse-NCADD A private nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the prevention of alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders, COSA-NCADD offers volunteer and equal opportunity employment opportunities. An events schedule lists various activities including recovery yoga and narcotics anonymous meetings. 
  • NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals Representing more than 100,000 addiction counselors, NAADAC encompasses addiction counselors and educators who specialize in addiction treatment, recovery, and prevention.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness-Huntsville NAMI is the largest mental health organization with a mission to better the lives of those affected negatively by mental illness. The organization strives to educate families and individuals with the skills and tools they need to help those struggling with mental illness.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers Serving as the addiction service profession's voice and thought leader, NAATP works to advance addiction services and support members.
  • Society of Addiction Psychology SoAP promotes advances in research and professional training for the addiction psychology field. Members receive free copies of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, a peer-reviewed journal published four times a year.

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