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How to Get Your Alcohol and Drug Counselor Training So You Can Make a Difference

You want to help people.  It’s in your blood.  You’ve always given your money when you can to your favorite charities and given your time to volunteer at organizations that mean a lot to you.  Now you’ve decided you want to do more than just help people.  You want to change their lives, too, and make a positive impact.

You want to earn your alcohol and drug counseling certification so you can help those dealing with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.  However, you’re not sure where to start.  What kind of education do you need? What kind of experience? How long will it take before you can start making a difference?

Here is all you need to know about becoming a substance abuse counselor.


Like all career paths, many drug and alcohol treatment facilities require their counselors to have a certain educational background.  If you’ve studied at a university or community college and obtained your bachelor’s degree, you’re in good shape.  If you have a bachelor’s degree in related fields such as psychology, behavioral sciences, or even education, you have a better chance of success.


Okay, so now that you know the kind of educational background you need, what about job experience? With this type of job, it’s not necessarily about experience, but more about certifications.  There are a variety of certification levels that allow you to do your job efficiently.  If you do have a background in volunteering, use this to your advantage on your resume, but you really need certifications.

Certification Levels

What are the certification levels? According to The National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCCAP) through The Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), these certifications allow substance abuse counselors to offer the best level of care for their patients.  The certifications prove they are qualified and experienced enough to handle the sometimes rigorous job of a substance abuse counselor.

For those who want to help drug or alcohol-addicted patients, they will start with the NCAC I, or the National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I.  Those who want to expand their career horizons may opt to receive their NCAC II certification, or the National Certified Counselor, Level II.  Those who are truly dedicated to the task of helping others can also obtain their MAC or their Master Addiction Counselor with Co-Occurring Disorders Component.

With the MAC certification, a substance abuse counselor will help the most patients possible while also earning more money.  However, they need so many hours of on-the-job experience, a certain educational background, prior certifications, and a master’s degree.

There are other certifications through the NCC AP that don’t necessarily deal with substance addiction.  These include the following:

  • The NCPRSS, or National Peer Recovery Support Specialist
  • The NECODP, or National Endorsed Co-Occurring Disorders Professional
  • The NCSE, or National Clinical Supervision Endorsement
  • The NESAP, or National Endorsed Student Assistance Professional
  • The NCAAC, or National Certified Adolescent Addiction Counselor
  • The NDS, or Nicotine Dependence Specialist

Have you read the above information and decided you want to become a substance abuse counselor? First, you need your alcohol and drug counseling certification.  NCC AP, founded in 1990, can help you earn that certification.  Those who enroll in the certification program will have to take exams to prove their current knowledge in the proper care of drug and alcohol patients.  Once they pass these exams and other tests, they can obtain their certification and get their dream job as a substance abuse counselor.