How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Kentucky

Substance abuse counselors help people who struggle with alcohol and drug addictions. These professionals often use individual treatment plans and group therapy to guide individuals on their road to recovery. Counselors may also connect clients with external resources and assist them with career searches.

Candidates exploring how to become a counselor should research their state's specific requirements. Candidates for licensure must often meet minimum standards for education and experience to ensure counselors understand addiction and treatment in both theory and practice.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor positions to increase by 23% from 2016-2026, which translates to more than 125,000 new jobs. This growth is partially due to the rising demand for substance abuse counselors in the criminal justice system and to a greater number of military personnel transitioning back into civilian life.

This page includes information about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Kentucky, including the process for obtaining substance abuse certification and licensure through the Kentucky Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC). The sections below also discuss credential reciprocity and professional organizations related to substance abuse.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Kentucky

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Kentucky here

Education and Experience Requirements

Kentucky maintains education and experience requirements for substance abuse counselors. Candidates for licensure must hold a minimum degree and have completed specific coursework and a minimum number of clinical hours. These elements prepare learners for Kentucky counseling positions.

Academic Requirements

To earn certification as an alcohol and drug counselor (CADC) in Kentucky, candidates must hold a bachelor's in any discipline. However, candidates with a clinical behavioral science graduate degree can apply for licensure as a clinical alcohol and drug counselor (LCADC). Candidates should earn their degree from an accredited school.

CADC applicants must have completed at least 270 hours of classroom training. One classroom credit fulfills 15 training hours, which means candidates can meet the requirement with 18 credits. Students who pursue a related undergraduate degree typically fulfill this requirement with no additional coursework. LCADC candidates must have completed 180 classroom training hours, or 12 credits.

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

ADC requires classroom training in 12 substance abuse areas, including treatment, ethics, documentation, and the meaning of addiction. ADC also sets minimum training hours in other concepts. For example, candidates must complete six hours in ethics, two hours related to HIV, three hours in domestic violence, and a series in alcohol and drug competency.

Individuals must document their training experiences on their application, providing dates, course names, and locations. ADC also requires applicants to submit an academic transcript for their most advanced degree. These requirements apply to both CADC and LCADC candidates.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Kentucky requires CADC candidates to have completed 300 supervised clinical hours under an ADC-approved supervisor. Candidates must also have at least 6,000 hours of work experience in the discipline. However, ADC may lower this number for applicants with certain degrees. Additionally, applicants can fulfill these hours through any activities related to substance abuse counselor tasks, including volunteer work. Kentucky LCADC candidates must have completed at least 300 hours of supervised clinical experience and 2,000 hours assisting individuals with addictions.

The Exam and Application Process for Kentucky Substance Abuse Counselors

To earn the CADC credential in Kentucky, candidates must pass the alcohol and drug counselor assessment given by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). This multiple-choice exam addresses various aspects of substance abuse counseling, including referrals, assessment, and treatment.

Candidates for either CADC ir LCADC credentials must first earn a temporary CADC credential, which requires a bachelor's degree, an application outlining work experience, and a contract between the applicant and a supervisor related to practicum experiences

Candidates must complete this 150-question test in three hours. ADC allows candidates to take the exam on a computer in a preferred setting, and test takers must pay a $200 exam fee. If individuals do not pass the exam in two attempts, ADC may require candidates to undergo a change in their practicum preparations. LCADC candidates must take the advanced alcohol and drug counselor examination.

Additional requirements for CADC and LCADC credentials include two recommendation letters from certified or licensed counselors, a $50 application fee, and an initial issuance fee ($200 for CADCs or $300 for LCADCs). Candidates must have completed training on certain topics, including suicide assessment, and consent to ADC's guidelines.

Candidates for either credential must first earn a temporary CADC credential, which requires a bachelor's degree, an application outlining work experience, and a contract between the applicant and a supervisor related to practicum experiences. Temporary CADC candidates must also pay a $50 application fee. After holding the credential for one year, individuals must provide an overview of their supervised experiences.

Out-of-state Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

In certain circumstances, substance abuse counselors can transfer their license between states. IC&RC oversees state transfers of related credentials between member boards. Each state offers different IC&RC credentials, which can prevent transfers. State boards may require out-of-state candidates to complete additional steps before receiving counseling credentials.

To apply for reciprocity, candidates should contact the board for the state in which they wish to obtain certification. Eligible candidates can submit an application to the board for the state in which they hold current licensure, which delivers the requisite documents to IC&RC. The board in the new state then receives the application to complete the transfer.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

CADC and LCADC holders renew their credentials every three years. To qualify for renewal, substance abuse counselors must complete 60 continuing education units, with at least 30 units involving in-person experiences.

ADC also requires a minimum number of units in specific areas. For example, candidates must complete three units in ethics, and ADC supervisors must fulfill three units in supervisory practices. Candidates must complete six units in suicide training every other renewal period. Substance abuse counselors in Kentucky who fail to renew their credentials can practice for up to 90 days beyond renewal deadlines.

CADC and LCADC holders renew their credentials every three years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Kentucky

Professional organizations often host conferences and symposiums that explore new ideas in the field and allow candidates to network with colleagues. These groups may also provide training, certification options, and workshops to help individuals advance in the field or earn continuing education units for license renewal. Additional benefits often include access to job boards, field publications, and discounts on various products.

  • American Counseling Association ACA hosts the Conference & Expo, which candidates can attend to earn continuing education units. The association also provides webinars on topics such as risk management, cultural diversity, and field ethics.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine ASAM delivers events and workshops that explore addiction-related medication, including a yearly conference. The society also provides resources like The ASAM Handbook on Pain and Addiction. Members can access the group's career center and the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
  • International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors This association delivers a variety of events, including an award ceremony and education sessions. The group also provides webinars, podcasts, and publications that explore field topics, such as the Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling.
  • International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals IITAP offers training in areas such as chemical dependency and recovery. The institute also provides certifications in five areas and hosts a yearly symposium with keynote speakers.
  • The Association for Addiction Professionals Candidates can pursue multiple certifications through this association, including credentials related to tobacco treatment practice and conflict resolution in recovery. The group also provides webinars, the Advances in Addiction & Recovery magazine, and an annual conference.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers Founded in 1978, NAATP hosts the National Addiction Leadership Conference. Professionals can earn continuing education units by participating in group webinars. NAATP also offers a job board.
  • National Board for Certified Counselors This board provides information about licensure and continuing education requirements for various states. The organization provides a newsletter — NBCC Visions — and hosts events such as the Bridging the Gap Symposium.
  • NKY ASAP This group provides guidance on substance abuse prevention through resources on marijuna, heroin, and alcohol use. NKY ASAP connects website visitors with groups such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA provides resources and training in topics such as suicide prevention and drug use. The group oversees National Recovery Month, providing a search engine to help users find local events connected to the program.
  • World Health Organization This organization offers information on numerous health concerns, including substance abuse. WHO connects site viewers to related publications and statistics, and the orgnaization assists with World Suicide Prevention Day.

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