Alaska has a well-defined career ladder for substance abuse counselors or “chemical dependency counselors” as they are officially known. According to the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (2012), Alaska has designations that correspond with all levels of the SAMHSA Consensus Group Career Ladder and Scope of Practice; Alaska's administrator certification represents the highest level.
This does not mean that the requirements or are identical to those described by SAMHSA. Alaska, unlike many states, does not require substance abuse counselors to hold academic degrees even at the highest levels. Non-degreed applicants must meet a very specific set of coursework requirements, but they may be met in various ways: through academic coursework, seminars, and/or in-service. Non-degreed applicants may climb the career ladder more slowly as they have higher experience requirements.
Individual employers may set requirements higher. Some Alaska employers 1) list the bachelor’s degree as a preferred qualification or 2) require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent education and experience. Some positions even favor professionals with education at the master’s level. Master’s level professionals may hold (or be seeking) licensure in any of multiple fields; social work is an example.
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The Commission has published two separate matrices of certification requirements: one for degreed counselors, the other for non-degreed counselors. In order for an academic degree to be credited, it must be in a relevant field. The following are considered qualifying degrees, though the list is not exhaustive:
Individuals with degrees will need to demonstrate the following coursework at the Technician/ Counselor I levels.
Individuals without degrees will have a lengthier list of required classes. The list for ‘Counselor I’ includes fully 16 requirements, though each one can be met through a short course, lasting three to sixteen hours. Crisis intervention and introduction to client-centered counseling are among the requirements.
At the Counselor II level, a substance abuse counselor (degreed or non-degreed) will need the following additional coursework:
Additional coursework is required at the supervisory and administrative levels. A supervisor will need 30 hours of education in supervisory principles and practices.
Confidentiality and ethics coursework must be from the prior two years.
Chemical dependency professionals need experience to attain higher levels of certification. With a degree, the minimum timeline to move up levels is as follows:
Without a degree the timeline is as follows:
Practicum is required at all levels except technician. A counselor will complete 100 hours at the Counselor I, Counselor II, and Clinical Supervisor levels. 300 hours is required at the administrator level.
The Commission has identified specific content that must be included at each level. A Counselor I, for example, will need 35 hours of supervised client evaluation utilizing DSM/ ASAM criteria. A clinical supervisor will need 60 hours of clinical team leadership.
The Commission has also published a list of competencies at each level. These are based on the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) Technical Assistance Publication No. 21 (sometimes referred to as TAP 21).
Examination is required at just two levels: Chemical Dependency Counselor I and Clinical Supervisor. The NAADAC Level I exam can be accepted at the Counselor II level. The Clinical Supervisor will need to pass the NAADAC II or MAC; these examinations are also accepted at the lower level.
Application forms can be downloaded from the website of the Alaska Commission for Behavioral Health Certification (https://www.akcertification.org/index.php?main_page=page&id=24&zenid=0sfnc9u9hntlsghpnhs3p70k01).
The Commission will require three references. References, practicum competency verification, and experience verification are to be submitted directly by the person responsible for completing them. Education will be documented through official transcripts and/ or copies of trainings.
The initial license fee for a Chemical Dependency Counselor I is $195. For a Chemical Dependency Counselor II, it is $210.
The applicant will obtain a background check from the Alaska State Troopers. The fee is currently $20.
Alaska chemical dependency counselor certification must be renewed every two years.
The Alaska Commission can consider requests for reciprocity from substance abuse counselors who hold certification through nationally recognized entities. (The entity may or may not be a NAADAC affiliate.) The reciprocity applicant is directed to include a copy of the certification requirements at his or her level. The Commission will also look for evidence of 40 hours of continuing education completed during the prior two-year period.
Applicants who have not yet arrived in Alaska may include a copy of a background check from their state of certification.
Certification information is available from the Alaska Commission for Behavioral Health Certification (http://www.akcertification.org/). The Commission can be reached by telephone at (907)332-4333 or by email at ‘acbhc at akcertification.org’.
Requirements may undergo periodic revisions. Some documents were revised in 2014.
The Alaska Association of Addiction Professionals is an additional professional resource (http://www.naadac.org/alaska). AAPA is the state affiliate of NAADAC.