Credentialing vs. Education: Workforce Development of Addiction Counselors

By Hatcher, Anne S. | Addiction Professional, July 2005 | Go to article overview

Credentialing vs. Education: Workforce Development of Addiction Counselors


Hatcher, Anne S., Addiction Professional


The workforce development recommendations for addictions counselors are being prepared. U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D.-Del.) has recently introduced the "Health Professionals Substance Abuse Education Act" in the Senate, and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D.-R.I.) has introduced a companion bill in the House. In view of the documented need for more addiction counselors and interest in funding the preparation of these counselors, an evaluation of the ways in which individuals learn the art of addiction counseling is in order.

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There are a number of ways in which such education/training is conducted, and an ongoing question of the advantages and disadvantages of each. This article will explore the differences between education and training in preparing addiction counselors for the workforce.

Diploma mills

As the need for credentials in many disciplines increased, bogus universities that sell college diplomas developed. Often this process seems to the unsuspecting student an easy way to get the required credential quickly. Such programs advertise using leading statements such as:

* "Earn your degree online from a prestigious unaccredited university."

* "It's now possible to earn affordable accredited degrees."

* "On the basis of what you already know you can now have an accredited degree that is accepted and recognized worldwide."

* "Add a degree to your resume now for as low as $199!"

There are two kinds of diploma mills: those that offer low-quality, specious programs or courses and those that merely sell a copy of a degree with the applicant's name on it.

Diploma mills survive by operating in states with lax laws governing schools. Most of them assume identities of well-known schools or religious organizations. Because of laws separating church and state, most states have been reluctant to pass laws restricting the activities of churches, including their right to confer degrees.

Proving fraud is difficult, particularly for operations that acknowledge that they are diploma mills. The school provides exactly what was promised: a piece of paper that looks like a degree.

Several Internet programs offer guidelines to help students evaluate programs under consideration (www.elearners.com and www.geteducated.com are good resources).

State credentialing of addiction counselors

The credentialing of addiction counselors varies from one state to another, and reciprocity for counselors moving from one state to another is usually not available unless the two states rely on the same testing procedure. The International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (ICRC) and NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals both provide examinations to determine the qualifications of those applying for addiction counselor certification. A proposed agreement between NAADAC and ICRC to unify their credentials would greatly enhance the national certification process.

Preparation to become an addictions counselor can be found in a number of formats: training workshops, community college courses, and college baccalaureate and master's degree programs. In addition to classroom instruction, numerous online courses of study are offered. The focus on having the needed credential often leads those seeking certification to search for the lowest-cost program requiring the least amount of time and effort.

A search of the Internet will provide numerous opportunities for degrees and for certification programs. With so many choices, the potential addiction counselor might be confused. Choosing a program that will meet state standards leading to the required credential is essential. For the individual wanting to progress in the profession, post-high school education is essential. The person wishing to have a license in a recognized mental health discipline in addition to an addiction counselor credential might find graduate education to be the best approach.

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