How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Alaska

In Alaska, aspiring substance abuse counselors can benefit from a flexible and varied path to the career. The state hosts one of the largest workforces comparative to population size and provides its substance abuse counselor workforce with the second-highest annual mean wage in the industry nationwide. Perhaps most promising of all, these counselors — called chemical dependency counselors in Alaska — can earn certification with or without a degree.

To practice in Alaska, professionals need to receive the chemical dependency certification from the Alaska Commission for Behavioral Health Certification (ACBHC). They can earn this through a combination of experience and individual courses or a degree and less experience. Once certified, substance abuse counselors can advance professionally with experience, continued education, or advanced certification levels. Read on to uncover what aspiring substance abuse counselors need to become certified in Alaska.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Alaska

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Education and Experience Requirements

Even though a chemical dependency counselor can acquire certification without a degree, the state still requires each candidate to complete certain academic and practicum requirements. The following information highlights the education level, courses, and supervised clinical hours aspiring counselors need to meet the state requirements.

Academic Requirements

Unlike many other states and counseling professions, a substance abuse counselor in Alaska does not need an undergraduate degree. While those with a behavioral health-related degree from a regionally accredited institution can earn certification with only one year of experience, non-degree candidates can pursue the same career.

For certification, each aspiring professional needs two years of experience and a set of completed course requirements. To accommodate experience, ACBHC offers an entry-level counselor technician certification that requires no experience to start. However, certification does not guarantee employment, and some employers may prefer candidates with additional educational and professional experience.

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

Coursework requirements for certification depend on the education level of the applicant. Candidates with a behavioral health degree, for example, need to complete 20 contact hours in courses covering addictive behavior, ethics, confidentiality, and infectious diseases. Many degree-holding applicants already possess these requirements.

For those without a degree, however, certification requires additional coursework in areas like documentation, case management, counseling training, and clinical practice. The additional 128 contact hours of coursework brings the required total up to 148 contact hours for non-degree candidates. While the state accepts all completed coursework, it does place time limitations on earned credits to ensure that students possess the most up-to-date information.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Both degree and non-degree certifications require each student to complete 100 hours of supervised practice at an accredited institution. These practicums must include treatment planning, community readiness planning, and evaluating clients using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) or the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

The Exam and Application Process for Alaska Substance Abuse Counselors

The application process for substance abuse counselors in Alaska requires each candidate to complete the application form, satisfy all application requirements, and submit the $195 initial certification fee to ACBHC, the Alaska counselor board. In addition to the application form, applicants need to submit course or degree transcripts, practicum and experience verification, and three professional references, including one from a supervisor.

both degree and non-degree certifications require further coursework, experience, and practicum expectations at the advanced levels

Once ACBHC accepts the application, it grants certification. Though a level-one chemical dependency counselor does not require an examination for certification, a chemical dependency counselor II or clinical supervisor must pass an eligible NAADAC exam, like the MAC, the NCAC I, or the NCAC II. Completing these exams demonstrates expertise in the field and ensures that applicants meet industry standards.

In addition to the examinations, both degree and non-degree certifications require further coursework, experience, and practicum expectations at the advanced levels. While the chemical dependency counselor II requires an additional 28 contact hours, the clinical supervisor certification adds 58 contact hours to the initial certification. Practicum expectations raise to 200 hours at level two and 300 hours for clinical supervisors and administrators.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

For out-of-state candidates looking for certification in Alaska, ACBHC requests a completed reciprocity application. To meet the Alaskan reciprocity agreement requirements, each applicant should possess national certification or licensure in their home state. Candidates should highlight their certification requirements in their submitted applications, and ACBHC may require proof of continued education to ensure that the applicant's education is current.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

After earning a substance abuse counselor certification in Alaska, professionals need to renew it every two years. This process involves a single payment to ACBHC. For level-one counselors, recertification costs $180, and the price increases $15-$20 with each level of certification. While recertification does not require continuing education credits, professionals considering applying for more advanced certifications in the future may wish to pursue professional development training and education to avoid retraining or taking courses more than once.

in Alaska, professionals need to renew their substance abuse counselor certification every two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Alaska

Chemical dependency and substance abuse counselors in Alaska can benefit from a variety of supportive organizations, associations, and resources. The following list outlines some of the best places to gather information, learn about the profession, and gain access to professional development opportunities and resources.

  • Alaska Addiction Professional Association AAPA strives to improve professional conditions for those working in addictions careers in Alaska. The association advocates for professionals, offers educational opportunities, and helps develop industry policies and standards.
  • Alaska Behavioral Health Association ABHA supports and represents behavioral health providers in Alaska. The association aims to improve behavioral health services and resources in the state, ensuring better access and more cost-effective options for the public.
  • Alaska Commission for Behavioral Health Certification ACBHC governs the certification process for chemical dependency counselors in the state. Its website offers access to information about events, job opportunities, and other resources.
  • Alaska Mental Health Board AMHB helps govern behavioral health services in the state, ensuring that professionals receive the proper professional support and citizens can gain access to the best available services.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine ASAM represents addictions professionals, promoting the roles of its members, educating them and the public, and offering access to related information and research.
  • Division of Behavioral Health Part of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the Division of Behavioral Health strives to improve quality of life for all Alaskans through accessible health services at the various levels in the care process.
  • Faces and Voices of Recovery Faces and Voices of Recovery unites the recovery community across the nation by providing access to resources and support services. The organization advocates for long-term recovery and improves public policy related to recovery.
  • National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors As the major association for addiction professionals, NAADAC promotes and advocates for the profession and its practitioners. It offers access to education, events, and certification resources.
  • Regional Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor Training RADACT offers training programs for industry certification. It seeks to improve educational standards in the field and ensure that its participants receive proper preparation for certification.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA aims to improve behavioral health nationwide. The organization offers access to professional data and information, training programs, treatment information, and various publications.

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