How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Rhode Island

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Rhode Island may seem too small to support much industry at all. However, the Ocean State is constantly bustling with economic activity. The top industrial sector is, in fact, real estate, which is no surprise since the state is such a desirable place to live. Other top industrial sectors include manufacturing, finance, professional services, and social services including education, healthcare, and social assistance.

And Rhode Island's economy is, at least in part, supported by its mental health counselors, including addiction counseling professionals. In fact, this sector has a broad impact on the Rhode Island economy. This is because addiction has such a detrimental impact on employers, families, and the wider community. In fact, it's been shown that nearly every person in America has been impacted in some way by alcoholism or drug addiction. This is because drug addicts commit more errors, cause more disruptions, commit crimes to support their habits, and burden the medical healthcare system with overdoses and a myriad of associated illnesses.

An addiction counselor is a mental healthcare professional who focuses their work on clients who suffer from substance abuse disorder. They primarily work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinics under a Rhode Island state license. Lower licensure levels allow addiction counselors to conduct educational sessions or to help facilitate group sessions. At the master’s addiction counseling degree level and above, licensed practitioners can conduct one-on-one counseling and even family therapy. Some even pursue a PhD, which can confer added status and higher pay.

Some addiction counselors with the proper licensure have independent counseling practices. They conduct therapy sessions with individual clients and some lead group therapy sessions. Independent counselors may also spend their days working at a rehabilitation center, and some build their career around interventions. Interventionists coordinate with families and rehabilitation centers to confront addicts and alcoholics prior to ushering them to a rehabilitation center.


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Top Ranked Online Colleges in RI

Online Addiction Counseling Education in Rhode Island


To help combat drug addiction in Rhode Island, the state supports its colleges and universities in their efforts to train drug counseling professionals. After all, when the state supports a public school's counseling or psychology department, it receives an economic boon that has a far-reaching impact. In fact, the entire economy is helped when drug addicts are able to recover and return to a more normal life.

Rhode Island's online colleges and universities seek to attract the very best faculty members for their counseling degree programs. They send out nationwide feelers to draw the nation's most qualified professors and instructors. They also look around the state and appeal to counseling professionals who hold a master’s counseling degree or better. When they hire instructors from the local area, students benefit from their ability to pinpoint nuances that are particular to Rhode Island.

Counseling departments also work with state regulators to ensure that their graduates will qualify for licensure. In fact, many courses will teach these requirements so that students can begin to mentally prepare for the state's licensure expectations. Not only does this benefit students who desire a successful counseling career, but it reflects well on these departments that wish to post strong outcomes for future students to consider.

Rhode Island, like many states, confers addiction counseling licenses for candidates with a high school diploma and above. However, there are two primary licensure levels that are contingent upon education, among other criteria. The base level is that of the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), which can be attained with any level of education beyond a secondary diploma. Then there's a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC) license, which is available to those with a minimum of a master’s addiction counseling degree or an equivalent degree in a relevant field.

Professionals who desire a position in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center may also apply for a provisional certification which allows them to get to work in a timely fashion. This credential can be earned with only 150 hours of on-the-job clinical supervision, a high school diploma, and a qualifying job description.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

This is a terrific option for those who desire a career in addiction counseling. Admission to most community colleges is relatively easy and an online associate in substance abuse counseling degree takes only two years to complete. This degree and subsequent licensure allows the degree holder to work with clients who suffer with substance abuse disorder, but not on a one-on-one basis. Despite this, work in this field can be intense and personal. Those who thrive in this profession can then move on to a higher degree, licensure, and career satisfaction.

The associate degree route is also smart because college credits from a community college are often far cheaper than those from a four-year college or university. Further, community college courses tend to be far smaller than those in a four-year university, and the level of instruction is often still stellar. In Rhode Island, community college courses might be taught by Ivy League graduates. Finally, an associate degree curriculum includes the core college courses required by every bachelor’s addiction counseling degree program in Rhode Island. This means that, if you do choose to transfer your credits toward a bachelor’s degree program, you might be able to begin as a junior rather than starting over as a freshman and having to take any more general education courses.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

A four-year online bachelor’s addiction counseling degree is perhaps the best foundation for a career in mental healthcare. Students in four-year degree programs have the opportunity to take more courses, complete internships, and even take part-time jobs in rehabilitation clinics while they complete their academic training. Students who can't find a specific bachelor’s addiction counseling degree program through their college or university can always study psychology or social work and then add an internship to focus their resumes.

Naturally, a bachelor’s degree provides students with a strong launchpad for a career in addiction counseling. It's also a strong degree to have for those who decide to do something else after college. After all, addiction counseling can be very intense, and the reality of the work might not match expectations. With a bachelor’s degree, students can still pursue a master’s degree either in a mental health related field or even in something seemingly unrelated, such as an MBA.

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS or MC)

Mental healthcare counselors generally strive for a master’s degree. This level of training allows them to conduct one-on-one therapy with addicts and alcoholics. Or they can make a shift into another form of counseling at this level. They can also earn full CAADC licensure from the state of Rhode Island. This license can be a gateway to a private practice that can be exclusively focused on therapy or which might include interventions or other sorts of consultations.

To earn a CAADC license, candidates must pass an examination, complete a period of supervised clinical practice, and fulfill other requirements, such as submitting to a background check. The clinical hours may be the most arduous, as the Rhode Island board requires 2000 hours of supervised clinical work.

There are also other options at this degree level outside of addiction counseling. Students can complete a master of social work (MSW) and then become licensed clinical social workers (LCSW), or they could complete a degree in clinical psychology. The Rhode Island board will surely honor any of these choices provided that the degrees come from a fully accredited university.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

As in many professions, a PhD is considered the peak academic achievement. For those in the mental health field, a PhD represents the very highest status and pay. Counseling professionals with a PhD can charge more for their work, have an easier time publishing articles, and generally enjoy elevated status in the mental healthcare field. While publishing may sound like a superfluous activity, counselors who publish articles can often use that credit towards their continuing education units (CEUs) that they need for licensure renewal.

A doctorate also opens up the possibility of a secondary career in academia. While those with a master’s degree can instruct undergraduate students, a PhD is required to teach at the master’s level and higher. Professors with a PhD may be eligible for tenure track positions, and they might even decide to pursue research in lieu of clinical practice. Researchers can conduct a career that focuses on the classroom or that is wholly concerned with researching and publishing papers.

Become an Addiction Counselor in Rhode Island


Rhode Island is a small state that still has many of the same problems as its larger neighbors, including drug addiction and its attendant difficulties. Given that it is between major urban centers New York City and Boston, many of the same drugs are passed off to Providence and even smaller towns in the state. Furthermore, the opioid epidemic hit Rhode Island just as it did other states.

And Rhode Islanders are just as interested in fighting the scourge of substance abuse disorder. However, not everyone is sure how to become an addiction counselor in Rhode Island and become part of the solution to this seemingly intractable social problem. As you might have guessed, the first step towards becoming a substance abuse counselor is to earn a degree.

In Rhode Island, future addiction counselors can earn a license with only a high school diploma. But, while that may be sufficient for the state's regulators, many addiction rehabilitation centers may want to see more experience and a higher degree level. In fact, the CADC license is offered to professionals with a high school diploma, associate addiction counseling degree, or a bachelor’s addiction counseling degree. So, it’s easy to see that an employer may wish to recruit a CADC licensed candidate with the higher degree level.

Those who desire careers as addiction counseling professionals will probably want to aspire to at least a bachelor’s if not a master’s addiction counseling degree. With a master’s counseling degree, substance abuse specialists can practice counseling with individual clients and even open up their own private practices. Some even branch out to offer families intervention services where their loved one can be confronted and then immediately entered into a rehabilitation center.

Each of these licensure levels has similar requirements on top of the degree. That is, all aspiring addiction counselors need to complete a set number of supervised hours, pass an examination, and provide a background check. There are also fees involved with licensure.

Aspiring addiction counselors should also know that their licensure work does not end once they receive their initial credential. Rhode Island, like most other states, requires that addiction counselors maintain and renew their credentials by earning continuing education units. They also need to ensure that they are conducting their professional work in compliance with Rhode Island's rules and regulations.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • School Counselor:
    These counseling professionals work in schools to help children overcome various difficulties that may be interfering with their schoolwork. School counselors need a master’s education degree and a teaching credential to work in public schools. These days, some school counselors work at multiple schools in a district though some are stationed at one specific school for the duration of a contract.
  • Clinical Social Worker:
    These social workers hold a master of social work and are licensed by the state of Rhode Island. In fact, they are commonly referred to as licensed clinical social workers. As such, they can practice individual psychotherapy and operate as independent therapists. This profession has the added benefit of being able to also work as more typical social workers who oversee a caseload in a social services agency.
  • Organizational Counselor:
    These counselors are unique in that they focus their work in a corporate environment. Their aim is to help employees overcome various workplace difficulties and become more efficient in their work. They may focus on techniques for stress reduction, emotional regulation, and managing personal issues in an effective manner. Organizational counselors may also mediate workplace conflicts to help ease tensions and create a more productive environment.
  • Adult and Geriatric Counselor:
    As we age, we encounter various age-related difficulties and adult/geriatric counselors are there to help. Just as children face their own developmental problems as they approach adulthood, older folks face the burdens of their families, careers, and aging in general. This specialty does not require special licensure but those who wish to focus on this area might seek a special credentials to help bolster their practice.
  • Sports Psychologist:
    We may be familiar with this field by way of professional sports. Occasionally a sports figure seeks a psychologist to help them overcome performance issues. For the most part, sports psychologists work as coaches or sports mentors who help whole teams or single players in gymnasts, tennis players, and others who compete in non-team sports. Many find work in schools, but others take a more entrepreneurial approach and start their own sports camps.
  • Health Psychologist:
    Many struggle with health issues which can become a real burden on their psyche. Health psychologists work with these patients and help them learn to deal with ongoing or even severe acute health problems. The field also includes professionals who help people improve their health. They can help people adopt and maintain new habits of eating, exercising, and even thinking which are designed to have a positive health impact.
  • Career Counselor:
    Though not part of the mental health field, these counselors do help people enhance their lives. Their workplace is usually on the campuses of colleges and universities where they maintain a career guidance office. They do work with students to help them determine an optimum career path as well as organizing campus events such as career focused days. Career counselors need to be able to communicate with the business community while helping their students position themselves for long-term success.

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