Frequently Asked Questions About A Substance Abuse Counselor

Being left alone in a trailer by my mother since I was 12 years old and needing to fend for myself for years before a social worker could put me in the foster care system was brutal. It was the worst experience that I would never wish for anyone to have. I was too young to work, so I had to look for leftover food at the dumpsters behind restaurants for months. Sometimes, the neighbors would take pity on me and give me bread, but they were dirt poor like me, so it did not happen as often as I hoped. Of course, as I lived in a trailer park, it meant that I got exposed to people doing shady stuff, which mostly involved drug abuse and selling.

How I never got tempted to try snorting coke or at least smoking pot always astounded people who heard my life story for the first time. After all, when such activities were too common in your neighborhood, and you did not have an adult in your life to tell you what NOT to do, it was easy to ride the tide. My best guess was that the social worker saved me from all that before I needed actual saving.

Once I went to foster care, I got lucky in finding an elderly couple who wanted to adopt me after I stayed with them for months. If you must know, adoption was rare for older foster kids. I did not have any known relatives to counter my foster parents’ case, so I became legally adopted on my 14th birthday.


Living The Dream

I was technically the elderly couple’s only child, and they doted on me in every way possible. If they saw me looking at something for more than a few seconds at the mall, they would ask, “Would you like us to get that for you?” If I seemed unhappy, they would worry as any parent should. 

In truth, I was not interested in a lot of material objects. It was enough for me to have a smartphone and a computer. The only thing I actually requested from my adoptive parents was to allow me to study counseling after high school. As expected, they gave me their full support, but Mom curiously asked why I wanted to take up counseling instead of other degrees.

“I am lucky to have new parents like you, but I still want to go back to the trailer park someday and offer counseling to substance abusers and hopefully help them turn their lives around,” I replied. 

How long do you have to go to school to be a drug counselor? 

 A drug counselor spends the same number of years – at least six – at school as any counselor. The only difference is that they have chosen to specialize in substance abuse.

How long does it take to get a CADC? 

 If you want to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC), you need to allocate 270 hours of your time to attend various related courses. On top of that, you are required to complete an internship for at least 3,000 hours. All these may take place within six months or longer. 

What are the eight practice dimensions of addiction counseling? 

  • Clinical Evaluation: The first step is to screen and assess the patient’s condition to ensure that they qualify for addiction counseling. 
  • Treatment Planning: When it becomes evident that they can avail addiction counseling, the counselor will plan how long they should receive treatment, what kind of counseling they should get, etc.
  • Referral: In this step, the counselor figures out what treatments they cannot provide in the facility and refer the patient to mental health professionals who can provide those.
  • Service Coordination: It is also essential for the counselor to coordinate with the patient and their loved ones and other concerned individuals regarding the upcoming treatment. Doing so guarantees that everyone is on the same page, which increases addiction counseling’s success rate.
  • Counseling: The actual counseling takes place at this point. The counselor will most likely recommend a one-on-one session to the patient to ensure that they can feel comfortable opening up about their problem. Over time, they may suggest group counseling and introduce the patients to others with the same issues.
  • Education: The mental health professional aims to educate everyone involved in the patient’s life regarding addiction and its symptoms. 
  • Documentation: Any progress that the patient makes every session needs to be recorded in written form. This way, the future psychologists or counselors they work with will know their mental status.
  • Professional/Ethical Responsibilities: It is among the counselor’s responsibilities to assess what symptoms or other issues they cannot treat and be honest about. They don’t try to fix such problems; instead, they help the patient look for another professional who can help them.

How long does it take to become an LCDC? 

 Becoming a licensed chemical dependency counselor requires you to spend 270 hours studying for it. Then, 135 out of those 270 hours must be focused on chemical dependency courses.

Can a felon be a drug counselor? 

 The answer depends on which state you live in. If you are in California, for instance, felons and other criminals can become drug counselors. However, many states do not allow that, especially if you have been newly acquitted for your crimes.

How do I get CAADC? 

 To get a CAADC certification, you must present a master’s degree in any mental health profession (preferably behavioral science) and complete alcohol and drug counseling courses. After that, you need to pass the IC&RC test and work for at least 4,000 hours in your desired field.

What can a CADC do? 

 A CADC helps addicted individuals figure out why they have developed an addiction in the first place. Most of the time, they sort of know the reason, but they are in denial about it.

How do I get CCAPP certified? 

 The first thing that CCAPP will ask you before getting certified is a high school diploma. Once you pass the initial assessment, you can enroll at their accredited programs related to ethics, counseling skills, communication, etc. This is a requirement for everyone, even for individuals who apply for certification after getting their bachelor’s or master’s degree.

What does CADC III stand for? 

 CADC-III stands for the highest level of certification that you can get as an alcohol and drug counselor.

How difficult is it for a felon to get a job? 

 The level of difficulty depends on how long it has been since you got convicted of a felony. If it is relatively new, you may struggle to find a company that will accept you without looking at your criminal record. Despite that, more companies try not to discriminate against felons and other criminals and hire them based on their skills.

Can felons become social workers? 

 Yes, felons can technically become social workers. They can apply for a license in their state, but the approval depends on the type of felony they have committed. Some also conduct a criminal background assessment. 

If you genuinely want to become a social worker, you may get a California license, where they have pretty relaxed rules regarding who can be certified or not.


What is a CDCA certification?

The Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant (CDCA) certification is the first accreditation type you should get to become a chemical dependency counselor.

Final Thoughts

The road to professional counseling took almost a decade of studying. No matter how challenging it was, though, my adoptive parents did not cease to support and encourage me to continue following my noble dreams. As of 2020, I already got the certifications required to become a substance abuse counselor and started to offer free counseling at impoverished communities throughout the country.