An Overview of Addiction Treatment Credentials and What They Mean

An Overview of Addiction Treatment Credentials and What They Mean

There are a great variety of addiction treatment credentials available, and each is an indication of different skills and experience

There are a number of different credentials related to addiction treatment. It is important to understand each of these credentials in order to appreciate the skills that an individual can bring to the table in the context of recovery. This becomes even more important when you understand that some of these credentials are for physicians as advanced certifications beyond the medical doctor degrees, and others can be obtained through the completion of a few courses.

Before diving into the specific credentials, it is valuable to discuss the purpose of credentials, and what these credentials communicate to you as a potential end user. Credentialing standardizes the training and processes employed by individuals in a given profession, in this case addiction treatment. This can provide a baseline of trust, as anyone with one of these credentials is familiar with a set of benchmarks and capable of operating in a specific level of competence.

Interventionist Certifications

According to the Association of Intervention Specialists,[1] “The interventionist is the individual who helps identify the appropriate people in the addict’s life who will become an influential part of a recovery team. The team will enable the individual and family to accept treatment and recovery. The interventionist supports, educates, provides guidance, direction and training, as well as the facilitation of the intervention and aftercare.” The interventionist supports the family and friends who are lovingly confronting the addict in a non-threatening way. Together with the interventionist, this group of people who love and care for the addict can provide a structured and supportive opportunity to seek the help necessary to win the fight against addiction.

In other words, an interventionist has a very specific skill set that is focused solely on the process of intervention. This is not to dismiss the training or expertise of something certified with the Association of Intervention Specialists. These individuals have dedicated themselves to a career of managing interventions, have more than two years of full-time employment in this arena, regularly invest time and money into continuing education and are involved in a community of interventionists.

NAADAC Certifications

Another avenue for addiction treatment credentials is the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, or NAADAC.[2] The NAADAC offers three main credentials for addiction professionals, a National Certified Addiction Counselor, Levels I and II and the Master Addiction Counselor with Co-Occurring Disorders Component. There are also a series of specialized credentials offered, with focuses including nicotine, adolescent addiction, clinical supervision and peer recovery support.

The goals behind each of the NAADAC certifications has four distinct purposes:

  1. to focus on the individual counselor and to provide a formal indicator of the current knowledge and competence at the national level
  2. to provide a national standard that exceeds most state requirements and encourages professionals to continue to learn for the sake of their clients
  3. to establish, measure and monitor the requirements for knowledge in the profession
  4. to provide assistance to employers, health care providers, educators, government entities, labor unions, other practitioners and the public in the identification of quality counselors who have met the national competency standards

IC&RC Certifications

The International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium also offers various credentials in the addiction treatment arena.[3] One aspect of these credentials is that the IC&RC does not directly certify professionals, but rather serves as an oversight organization for the IC&RC Member Boards, which subsequently offer certifications in accordance with the guidelines and procedures that the IC&RC has agreed upon.

The International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium provides the minimum standards for the following reciprocal credentials:

  • Alcohol and Drug Counselor
  • Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor
  • Prevention Specialist
  • Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional
  • Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional
  • Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional Diplomate
  • Peer Recovery

Each of these certifications has a specific educational requirement, along with a related examination that must be passed. The U.S. Department of Labor has specifically identified several of the IC&RC certifications as attractive and meaningful for individuals interested in pursuing careers in addiction treatment.

American Society of Addiction Medicine Certifications

The American Society of Addiction Medicine[4] offers credentials for physicians and psychiatrists. These certifications are distinct from every other credentialing body for addiction treatment, because they are only available to practicing medical and psychiatric physicians. Additionally, there is a requirement to have completed training for addiction medicine, which cannot be substituted for experience in another specialty.

The Bottom Line

If you have been reading this article, the odds are you believe that you have an addiction problem, or that a loved one is struggling with an addiction. The biggest encouragement, in either case, is to not sweat the details. Each of the credentials mentioned above has a valuable part to play on the road back to a sober life. While there is certainly value in understanding these distinctions, don’t let the details of credentials keep you from getting help.

If you or your loved one is ready for a change, there is support available. We can help you. We can answer your questions. The admission counselors at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can help you learn more about your mental health condition. They can help you find your way.


[1], “What is an interventionalist,” accessed December 6, 2015

[2], “NCC AP Credentials Overview,” accessed December 6, 2015.

[3], “Earning a Credential,” accessed December 6, 2015.

[4], “What is an Addiction Specialist?,” accessed December 6, 2015.