Assuring Public Safety in the Delivery of Substance Abuse Treatment Services. An IC&RC Position Paper on Alcohol & Drug Counselor (ADC) Credentialing

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1 Assuring Public Safety in the Delivery of Substance Abuse Treatment Services An IC&RC Position Paper on Alcohol & Drug Counselor (ADC) Credentialing April 2012

2 Introduction Since 1981, the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) has been a leader in fostering the adoption of professional practice standards for individuals engaged in providing substance abuse services. IC&RC practice standards are applied to substance abuse counselors, clinical supervisors, prevention specialists, co-occurring disorders professionals, and criminal justice addictions professionals. Membership in IC&RC continues to grow, encompassing certifying boards in 24 countries, 47 U.S. states and territories, all branches of the United States Military, the United States Indian Health Services, and the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities. IC&RC member boards share a common belief that competency-based practice standards help to ensure the public s safety when receiving substance abuse services. This respect for consumer safety provides the basic rationale for the development and application of substance abuse practice credentialing. Psychometric industry standards, such as beginning with the development of Job Task Analyses, are the foundation for the credentialing process. Such rigorous practices in test development set IC&RC apart from other credentialing processes. IC&RC member credentialing boards provide the opportunity for individuals employed in the substance abuse field to qualify for and receive recognition for achieving a standard of professional education and experience necessary to provide quality substance abuse services. Understanding the Need for Alcohol & Drug Counselor Credentialing Alcohol and drug counseling work is dynamic, with each client contact being both intentional and impromptu. Texts and theories can age rapidly in that environment, so counselors need to remain current with the latest evidence-based practices and flexible to meet the evolving demands of their professions. Resources must be rich, relevant, and current, if they are to be useful. For professionals, becoming credentialed demonstrates competency, by having professional expertise and qualifications verified by an independent evaluator. It recognizes achievement of a standard of professional education and experience necessary to provide quality treatment services. In addition, credentialing demonstrates ongoing learning through the required continuing education for recertification. For the public, credentialing assures that counselors have met a level of competency as determined by an international consortium of professionals adhering to the highest standards 1

3 of quality and integrity. Credentialing Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC) is an important part of providing a safe, thorough continuum of care for those individuals addicted to substances and their families. Who Should Be Credentialed as an Alcohol & Drug Counselor? Ideally, all counselors working with chemically-dependent or substance-abusing individuals and their families should be certified. As a minimum, however, those professionals whose primary work is assisting chemically-dependent or substance-abusing individuals and their families should be required to meet international standards for competency. Credentialing provides a level of confidence in those being served that their counselor is professional and has been certified based on the criteria set by professionals in this specific area of service. IC&RC s Competency-Based Alcohol & Drug Counselor Credential IC&RC s original and oldest credential, the reciprocal ADC was established in To ensure high quality practice standards, IC&RC based the credential on a Job Task Analysis, a formal process of working with a cross section of substance abuse treatment administrators, providers, practitioners, researchers, and others to identify and gain consensus on the specific competencies needed to effectively provide substance abuse treatment services. The 2008 IC&RC Job Task Analysis identified eight performance domains for the Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Clinical Evaluation Treatment Planning Referral Service Coordination Counseling Client, Family and Community Education Documentation Professional and Ethical Responsibilities 2

4 Within each performance domain, job tasks are identified that provide the basis for questions in the examination. The Addiction Counseling Competencies from Technical Assistance Publication (TAP) Series 21 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the IC&RC 12 Core Functions are contained within the domains. Since the Job Task Analysis is updated every five to seven years, the IC&RC credential requires ADCs to stay abreast of the latest research findings, employ best practices, apply innovations in treatment methods, and follow the public trends of substance abuse in order to ensure the competency of the treatment services they provide. IC&RC Alcohol & Drug Counselor Written Examination The development of a valid examination for the IC&RC credentialing process begins with a clear and concise definition of the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for competent job performance. Using interviews, surveys, observation, and group discussions, IC&RC works with experts in the field of alcohol and drug abuse to delineate critical job components. The knowledge and skill bases for the questions in the examination are derived from the actual practice of the counselor in the alcohol and drug field as outlined in the 2008 IC&RC Alcohol & Drug Counselor Job Task Analysis. The exam also includes 13 questions that relate to a single case study, which is presented with those questions. IC&RC has contracted with Schroeder Measurement Technologies (SMT) to develop, score, and administer the International Examination for Alcohol & Drug Counselors. SMT is an established full-service international testing company serving the needs of licensing boards and credentialing agencies with a wide range of test development and computer-based administration services at testing centers worldwide. Making ADC Credentialing a Requirement to Practice The most compelling reason to require the ADC credentialing for all professionals working in the substance abuse counseling arena is to ensure the safety of the public. International, national, and state agencies that adopt the ADC standards and enforce those standards through the requirements of credentialing significantly increase their opportunity to educate practitioners in appropriate, effective, and best practices of service delivery. Additionally, those 3

5 receiving services expect a certain standard of professionalism, and IC&RC credentialing ensures that it is met through the requirement for all ADCs to adhere to a recognized code of professional ethics. Conclusion The political realities of public support for substance abuse treatment services require professionals and programs to gain and maintain public confidence. One of the most important obligations that the field has to the public is to offer a treatment workforce that demonstrates competency in the practice of substance abuse counseling. No other effort related to the quality of substance abuse treatment is as important as having knowledgeable and well-qualified individuals counseling in our communities. IC&RC s competency-based approach to credentialing offers a consistent standard of practice for professional counselors. Through this process, substance abuse treatment providers will significantly increase their capability to ensure public safety. About IC&RC For more than 30 years, IC&RC has developed credentials for addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery professionals that adhere to the highest standards of quality and integrity. Today, IC&RC represents 76 member boards, including 24 countries, 47 U.S. and territories, and all branches of the U.S. military. Members also include five Native American territories. IC&RC s credentials include Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC), Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC), Clinical Supervisor (CS), Prevention Specialist (PS), Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP), Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional (CCDP), and Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional Diplomate (CCDPD). The organization is in the process of developing a Peer Recovery Coach (PRC) credential. IC&RC represents 45,000 reciprocal-level credentialed professionals. Up to half of all substance abuse professionals in the U.S. hold IC&RC certificates. For information on the Alcohol and Drug Counselor credentialing process, contact: IC&RC 298 S. Progress Avenue Harrisburg, PA InternationalCredentialing.org (717)

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