Career Profile: Substance Abuse Counselor

Both Kentucky and the United States are experiencing a pronounced demand for qualified substance abuse counselors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, central Kentucky has the second-highest rate and third-highest concentration of employment of substance abuse counselors among nonmetropolitan areas in the country. Nationally, openings for this role are expected to grow 22 percent by 2024. Understanding the nature of the substance abuse counselor position is of great benefit to those seeking to fulfill this need.

The Role of a Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors are responsible for providing treatment and assistance to those dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction. Their daily activities often include the following:

  • Evaluating clients and their readiness for treatment
  • Assisting clients with defining recovery goals
  • Helping clients identify factors and behaviors that interfere with recovery
  • Working with families of clients to teach them about addiction and developing coping strategies
  • Referring clients to resources such as job placement services and support groups
  • Assisting clients with improving personal and professional relationships
  • Working alongside psychiatrists, social workers, physicians and nurses to coordinate treatment plans
  • Working with 12-step program models, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and others
  • Conducting outreach to help the public identify signs of addiction and avoid problematic behavior
  • Specializing in work with certain populations such as youth, veterans or those with disabilities

Substance abuse counselors must possess certain skills including the ability to listen actively, think critically, perceive social cues and reactions effectively and show empathy. They must enjoy working with people for long periods of time.

Work Environments

Substance abuse counselors can work in any number of settings, according to the Association for Addiction Professionals. These may include:

  • Outpatient care centers
  • Mental health and substance abuse facilities
  • Individual and family services
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals
  • Prisons
  • Probation or parole agencies
  • Juvenile detention facilities
  • Halfway houses
  • Detox centers
  • Employee assistance programs

They may additionally work in individual or group practice, or in crisis or non-crisis settings.

Certification Requirements

Kentucky offers two levels of substance abuse counselor credentials: Certification as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and Licensure as a Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC). Each credential has its own prerequisites.

State requirements for the CADC include:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • 6,000 hours of experience working with persons having a substance use disorder
  • 270 classroom hours of board-approved curriculum
  • 300 hours of direct clinical supervision
  • Letters of reference
  • A passing score on the Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) exam

The LCADC necessitates further training and education. Requirements for this credential include:

  • A master’s or doctoral degree in a behavioral science with clinical application (such as social work)
  • 2,000 hours of additional experience working with persons having a substance use disorder
  • 180 classroom hours of board-approved curriculum
  • A supervisor evaluation
  • Letters of reference

The LCADC is a terminal certification for substance abuse counselors in Kentucky.

Getting Your Education

For those who want to pursue a career that benefits others, the online Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work programs from Campbellsville University can help. Campbellsville’s programs are flexible, affordable and provide academic excellence through a Christian lens.