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Credentialing: pathways for professional success

September 1, 2010
by Shirley Beckett Mikell and Mary Jo Mather
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Two leading organizations collaborate to benefit the addiction profession

Addiction professionals in the U.S. have the ability to choose a number of career directions, but success relies on a solid foundation of education and training. Both of our organizations-the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (ICandRC) and the National Certification Commission (NCC)-have for decades championed the necessity of credentialing to our profession. Recently, we have begun to discuss how we can collaborate to benefit both of our constituencies.

With the implementation of healthcare reform and the National Drug Control Strategy on the horizon, the addiction profession is anticipating a great deal of change, and we believe that we have more to gain from advocating together than separately. In that spirit, we have been seeking shared values and common goals, on which we can base a fruitful partnership.

A history of two organizations

Mary jo mather
Mary Jo Mather


While the NCC and ICandRC both grew out of similar impulses-the desire to recognize and improve quality in the addiction profession-we have taken differing paths.

Shirley beckett mikell
Shirley Beckett Mikell


Incorporated in 1981, ICandRC is the international organization that protects the public by establishing standards and facilitating reciprocity for the credentialing of addiction-related professionals. Headquartered in Harrisburg, Pa., ICandRC is a not-for-profit voluntary membership organization made up of certifying agencies involved in credentialing or licensing alcohol and drug counselors, clinical supervisors, prevention specialists, co-occurring disorders professionals, and criminal justice professionals. It represents 72 member boards, including those in 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, two U.S. territories and 12 countries, as well as affiliations with the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

In January 2010, ICandRC announced that the number of professionals who hold its credentials had crossed the 40,000 mark. Up to half of all substance abuse professionals in the U.S. hold ICandRC certificates. Substance abuse counseling is one of the fastest-growing professions, projected to grow 20 percent by 2016. In this era of rapid change, ICandRC will continue to be the global resource for the highest standards in addiction-related healthcare credentialing.

In 1990, the National Certification Commission came into existence as NAADAC addiction counselors pressed for recognition as professionals at the national level. The founders envisioned a nationally recognized credential that would afford professionals easy movement from state to state. The National Certification Commission comprises NAADAC members who define the standards for addiction treatment counselors. The NCC continues to accomplish this by creating certifications and endorsements outlining the highest standards of clinical practice.

The commission develops and maintains national standards of requisite knowledge in alcoholism and drug abuse counseling and provides evaluation mechanisms for measuring and monitoring the level of knowledge required for national credentialing. The NCC also establishes appropriate policies for acquiring and maintaining national credentials and provides formal recognition to those individuals who meet the national standards.

The shared value of credentialing

The NCC and ICandRC find common ground in our belief that credentialing advances our profession. Credentialing facilitates standardized practice across a wide variety of treatment settings and regulatory environments. Most importantly, it ensures that trained, ethical counselors are available to clients and families across the U.S.

For employers of addiction professionals, and people who use their services, credentialing offers the security of knowing that counselors are competent, knowledgeable of evidence-based practices and committed to ongoing enhancement of their skills.

Not to be overlooked are the benefits to certificants themselves. A credential offers a third-party, objective endorsement that enhances their professional reputation and increases opportunities for career advancement. Demonstrating the high level of commitment, knowledge and skill that is required to qualify for a credential is a personal accomplishment to be proud of.

Pathways to the profession

With these values in common, both the NCC and ICandRC offer specialized credentials that are the pathway to a multitude of career designations. They enable us to provide specific services ethically and professionally within the addiction profession.

NCC offers the following credentials and endorsement:

  • National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I) is a national certification intended for professionals working within addiction-related disciplines who wish to demonstrate their skills gained through years of supervised work experience.

  • National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level II (NCAC II) is a national certification intended for professionals working within addiction-related disciplines who wish to demonstrate their specialized addiction treatment skills gained through years of supervised work experience and specific undergraduate coursework.

  • Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) is a national certification intended for professionals working within addiction-related disciplines who wish to demonstrate their specialized addiction treatment skills gained through years of supervised work experience and specific graduate coursework.

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