An Overview of Addiction Treatment Credentials and What They Mean

An Overview of Addiction Treatment Credentials and What They Mean

Addiction specialty certification offers potential personal, professional and financial benefits

When you start looking for treatment, you will likely see that many therapists have different credential abbreviations following their name. You may wonder if those qualifications are relevant in your treatment. Before diving into the details of various addiction treatment credentials, it is important to note that to get the best, most accurate information, you need to research what credentials are available in your state. In many cases, there are multiple credentials available in your state, so it is not as simple as finding one certification for a therapist who has addiction treatment credentials.

You might wonder, why do credentials matter, aren’t all therapists the same? While there are some common elements with many different varieties of therapy, when a therapist has a credential he or she is required to meet specific requirements for coursework and experience. Addiction specialty certification offers potential personal, professional and financial benefits. Certified physicians have met rigorous standards, which is a source of professional pride.[1]

For example, to become a Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADAC) you have to meet the following requirements: 2,000 hours of supervised full-time addiction treatment experience, six hours in HIV/Aids training and six hours in ethics training, a four-year degree in a human services area from a college, 180 hours of formal alcohol and/or drug training and 220 hours of experience in alcohol and drug counselor roles. In addition to these requirements, the therapist must also pass the exam. So if you see a therapist with the CADAC credential, you know he or she has met those requirements. There are other credentials such as the Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC), which is intended for individuals who provide alcoholism and substance abuse counseling services in approved work settings.

Here is a summary of some other certifications you will find:

  • LADC stands for Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. In the state of Tennessee, some of the requirements include: a high school diploma or GED, 270 hours of addiction counseling training, 6,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, passing the LADC test and providing a case study. Remember this is specifically in Tennessee; the requirements can vary in each state.
  • CAC means Certified Addictions Counselor. In the state of Florida, this specific certification requires 250 hours of training of which 130 hours must be allocated to clinical evaluation, treatment planning, case management, counseling and ethics.
  • LPC is a certification that stands for licensed professional counselor. Typically, to receive this an individual must have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, have professionally supervised clinical experience and then pass a state licensing exam. A licensed professional counselor has been trained to address and treat both emotional and mental disorders to support good mental health. LMHC stands for licensed mental health counselor, which can be the same as a licensed professional counselor (LPC). It is important to keep in mind that some terminology will vary from state to state. In this case, there is no real difference between a LMHC and a LPC.
  • CAS is a Certified Addiction Specialist. This certification is for a professional with a master’s or doctorate degree, three years or 6,000 hours of supervised experience of giving direct healthcare to those with addictive disorders is required. For an individual with any other degree, he or she must have 10,000 hours of experience and a minimum of 270 hours of formal education.

If you do some research and do not find these to be common credentials used in your state, it is a good idea to get information from the health department in your state to identify the credentials. Depending on the state you live in, drug and alcohol abuse counselors may be referred to as behavioral health counselors, licensed chemical dependency counselors, drug addiction counselors, drug addiction and substance abuse counselors, certified therapeutic counselors, drug treatment counselors, or rehabilitation counselors, or they may be given similar titles.[2]

Keep in mind that the rules and requirements change for these credentials quite often. If you are not sure about something, you can always go directly to the licensing organization to get the details. You can also call our helpline and talk to one of our counselors to find out more information. While you can likely find a treatment plan that works well for you, it is also important to keep an open mind too. Try not to make assumptions or to limit yourself by seeking treatment that emulates what you have seen on TV or in movies. It is always best to talk to someone directly so you can get specific answers to your questions. Feel free to call one of our counselors at our helpline and get the help you need. Our counselors are ready to talk with you and will provide you with the information needed for your recovery.


[1] Specialized Training on Addictions for Physicians in the United States, Gramen V. Tontchev, M.D., Timothy R. Housel.

[2] A National Review of State Alcohol and Drug Treatment



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