How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Rhode Island

Aspiring substance abuse counselors can pursue three paths to certification in Rhode Island through the Rhode Island Certification Board (RICB): the provisional alcohol and drug counselor

(PADC), the certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC), and the certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor (CAADC). Once they achieve certification, candidates can apply for licensure through the Department of Health.

State departments and organizations work to ensure substance abuse counselors get the appropriate training and support, but Rhode Island still faces high demand for qualified professionals. According to research by the Rhode Island Prevention Resource Center, drug and alcohol dependence is a "major issue" in the state, and adults in Rhode Island aged 18-25 "have a greater unmet need for treatment" than the average state.

This unfortunate news should encourage more interested students to enter the chemical dependency counselor profession. To assist in that regard, this guide outlines licensure qualification and the application process. Continue reading to learn exactly how to become a substance abuse counselor in Rhode Island.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Rhode Island

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Rhode Island here

Education and Experience Requirements

For each of the certifications, applicants need to satisfy a unique set of prerequisites. The following information covers what each certification needs in terms of academic coursework and practicum requirements. Students can use this information to seek the appropriate training for their desired career paths.

Academic Requirements

To earn the PADC or the CADC, each applicant needs only a high school diploma or GED, plus a substantial amount of work experience. With a degree, however, applicants can decrease the amount of experience needed for the CADC. An associate degree counts for 1,000 hours, a bachelor's degree 2,000 hours, and a master's degree counts for 4,000 hours toward the work experience requirements.

To qualify for the more advanced CAADC certification, a candidate will need a master's degree as a minimum. All degrees must come from regionally accredited institutions.


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 differ with each credential level. For the PADC, candidates need to complete 140 educational hours. The CADC requires 300 education hours, 120 of which must come in a substance abuse topic. Finally, for the CAADC, each candidate must complete 180 hours of relevant coursework.

All three credentials require six hours of training in confidentiality, six hours in ethics, six hours in addiction medicine treatment, and six hours in communicable diseases.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

To satisfy the supervised practice requirements for each credential, candidates need to complete a number of hours in each of the four domains: screening, assessment, and engagement; treatment planning, collaboration, and referral; counseling; and professional and ethical responsibilities. The PADC requires 150 supervised hours, the CADC requires 300 hours, and the CAADC requires 100 hours. Candidates must complete at least 10 hours in each domain.

The Exam and Application Process for Rhode Island Substance Abuse Counselors

To earn licensure in Rhode Island, substance abuse counselor candidates need to reside in the state and follow a series of steps. First, they must complete the degree, coursework, and practicum requirements above. Each aspiring counselor also needs to complete the work experience requirements for each credential: 2,000 hours for the PADC, 6,000 hours for the CADC without a degree, and 2,000 hours for the CAADC.

After aspiring counselors receive certification, they can apply for the licensed chemical dependency professional designation through the Rhode Island counselor board

As an entry-level credential, the PADC provides candidates with the requirements to enter the field and work toward certification and licensure. As a result, the PADC requires no examination. Both the CADC and the CAADC, however, require candidates to pass the appropriate exam from the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). CADC candidates take the alcohol and drug counselors exam, while CAADC candidates take the advanced alcohol and drug counselors exam.

From there, the final elements of a completed application include a signed and notarized acknowledgements page and the appropriate certification fee. After aspiring counselors receive certification, they can apply for the licensed chemical dependency professional designation through the Rhode Island counselor board, which is the Board of Licensing for Chemical Dependency Professionals.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Out-of-state substance abuse counselors looking for certification or licensure in Rhode Island may qualify to receive credentials through reciprocity, permitted they carry valid licensure or certification from their home states, and those states are members of the IC&RC. This organization ensures that all members have met the same standards.

While out-of-state credentials from an IC&RC member may qualify an out-of-state candidate, Rhode Island officials have the final say on all matters. Rhode Island does not accept certifications through endorsement.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

The substance abuse counselor credentials in Rhode Island expire every two years to ensure that professionals stay up to date on their training and knowledge. Since the PADC is a temporary credential, holders must upgrade to a CADC or a CAADC in the two years allotted to them. For both the CADC and CAADC recertifications, each counselor must acquire 40 hours of education, including 30 hours in substance abuse training and three hours in professional ethics. All eligible credits must come from RICB-approved programs.

The substance abuse counselor credentials in Rhode Island expire every two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Rhode Island

Substance abuse counselors at any level in Rhode Island can benefit from many of the state's available resources. The following list highlights some of the best sources of information and professional assistance. The links below cover state and national organizations, professional associations, and treatment centers.

  • American Society of Addiction Medicine ASAM supports professionals who work with addiction medicine and the profession overall. ASAM helps improve access to treatment, information about addiction, and treatment as a whole.
  • International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium IC&RC develops industry standards and testing for certification across the country. The consortium connects states and members of substance use professions through its standardized processes.
  • Mental Health Association of Rhode Island MHARI seeks to reduce the impact of mental illness in the state through the promotion of mental health, improved education, and access to helpful information and resources.
  • The Providence Center The Providence Center offers services and resources for citizens working toward long-term recovery. The center supports substance use professionals with employment and information.
  • Rhode Island Certification Board RICB oversees the certification process in the state for several credentials, including substance abuse counseling. The board also offers access to the code of ethics and job boards.
  • Rhode Island Mental Health Counselors Association RIMHCA represents licensed professionals and supports their professional development with continuing education, events, and membership benefits and discounts.
  • Rhode Island Prevention Resource Center RIPRC helps professionals with access to training, networking opportunities, and industry resources. The center also hosts events and a professional directory.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA strives to limit the impact of mental illness on the American population through improved behavioral health resources and information. SAMHSA also supports the educational process and offers programs for professionals in this field.
  • Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council of Rhode Island This council seeks to develop community-based services for substance use treatment and mental illness support. The council provides access to educational programs, in-state treatment services, and other helpful resources.
  • State of Rhode Island Department of Health The Department of Health promotes better health and safety in Rhode Island by providing access to information and resources. The board also governs the licensing process for many state professionals, including chemical dependency professionals.

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