Note: This module has not yet been updated since the original Addictionary published in 1992. We may decide to update it.

Certification is a process by which addiction professionals are evaluated for their knowledge, experience, and skills in a certain area of addiction. Being certified does not guarantee that a particular counselor is competent. Nor can you be sure that a counselor who is not certified is less qualified than a certified counselor. But it would be wise to ask whether your counselor is certified in the addiction for which you are being treated, and if not, why not.

Academic degrees are also important. These days, a good addiction counselor should have a master’s degree in a counseling field, or its equivalent. Counselors without a master’s degree in psychology, social work, or other counseling discipline should be willing to tell you how they obtained the knowledge and skills in psychology and human behavior needed to be a good counselor.

There are very few universities that offer degrees in alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, codependency, compulsive gambling, or even in addiction counseling. So the certification supplements academic degrees by telling you, the consumer, that these individuals have specialized in the area for which they are certified, and have met certain experience, knowledge, and skill measurements that suggest that they are qualified to treat the addiction for which they are certified.

State Level

Almost every state in the US has at least one organization that certifies alcoholism counselors, drug counselors, or a combined alcohol and drug certification. The name of this dual certification varies widely. Examples are certified alcohol and drug counselor, certified chemical dependency counselor, certified substance abuse counselor, certified counselor/alcohol and other drug abuse, and certified addictions professional. Most state certifying bodies belong to and meet the reciprocity standards of the National Certification Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Inc. (NCRC/AODA).

National Level

The road to a national standard for alcohol and drug counselor certification has been long and arduous. Several professional organizations have worked both with and against each other, and their disagreements are not likely to be fully resolved anytime soon.

NCRC The National Certification Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Inc. (NCRC/AODA) developed to help certified counselors who move from one state to another. In the process they created a de facto standard for certification including education, experience, and skill requirements. They developed a Case Presentation Method to measure addiction counseling skills. They also began offering a national level certification to supplement the state level certification.

NAADAC The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, Inc. (NAADAC) represents member counselors in most states. They have also developed a similar national level certification.


Employee assistance professionals can now be certified by the Employee Assistance Certification Commission of the Employee Assistance Professionals’ Association (EAPA).


Therapists who work with compulsive gambling may be eligible for certification also. For information contact the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Eating Disorders

The only professional certification directly related to eating disorders are the titles Certified Eating Disorders Counselor and Certified Eating Disorders Therapist. These are granted by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP).


Certification is also available for physicians and nurses who specialize in the treatment of addictions. Contact the appropriate professional organization for information.


For the addresses of these associations that offer certification, see the module Professional organizations.

Certification, see also: Alcoholism, Core functions, Counseling, Drugs, Dual diagnosis, Employee assistance programs, Impaired professionals, Intervention, Professional organizations, Therapy & treatment.

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