Addiction Treatment Professionals

This page offers a brief explanation of what different addiction professionals do for quick reference. Learn about their jobs, education, licensing and certifications.

It is tough to admit to having a drug or alcohol problem. It’s even tougher to recover. Overcoming addiction is easier with support. Trained addiction professionals treat individuals with alcohol and substance use problems. Professional training for addiction providers ensures that patients have the best chance of success in recovery.

Types of Addiction Professionals

A patient will usually meet many addiction professionals during rehab. These professionals have different names, skills and schooling. For example, the term addiction specialists refers to trained medical doctors.

States regulate most addiction professional jobs. State licensing protects patients. Licensed professionals have completed specific amounts of education, testing and supervised work. Certified professionals have met national or international organizations’ requirements. Ways to get certified include passing exams, taking classes and working.


An interventionist helps persuade individuals to seek treatment for addiction and substance use. First, they meet with and train family and friends. Then they design a plan and help execute it. Almost anyone can call themselves an interventionist. However, some interventionists have a certification.

Certified intervention professionals (CIPs), and certified national drug & alcohol interventionists (CNDAI), have a minimal amount of education or work experience. Interventionists are not licensed but may have other licensed credentials. For example, a licensed counselor could also be an interventionist.

Addiction Counselor

Addiction counselors are important partners in a patient’s recovery journey. They are more than therapists. Addiction counselors are a patient’s support system, adviser and teacher.

Unfortunately, there’s no consistency in addiction counselor education, licensing or certification. Addiction counselors are also called substance use disorder counselors, alcohol and drug counselors, substance abuse counselors and chemical dependency professionals.

Addiction counselors must have state licenses. Licensed addiction counselors have associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees. Certified addiction counselors have met specific education and work experience requirements. Advanced alcohol & drug counselors (AADC), and master addiction counselors (MAC) have master’s degrees. Sometimes state licenses require certificates.

  • Education: Associate degree, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree
  • Certification: Alcohol and Drug Counselor, ADC, by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium, IC&RCAADC by IC&RC; National Certified Addiction Counselor I & II, NCAC I & II, by the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals, NCC AP; or the MAC, by NCC AP
  • Licensing: Yes, by state
  • What they do: Give advice, support
  • Other names: Substance use disorder counselors, alcohol and drug counselors, substance abuse counselors and chemical dependency professionals

Addiction Psychiatrist

Addiction psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in addiction medicine. These psychiatrists study the physical and mental aspects of mental health plus addiction. They are especially useful for patients with dual diagnoses.

A person with a dual diagnosis has an addiction and a mental illness, which are also called co-occurring disorders. Treating addiction without considering the mental illness increases the chance of relapse. Addiction psychiatrists need licenses and certifications.

Addiction Medicine Physicians

Addiction medicine physicians are medical doctors that treat patients with addiction. Addiction medicine physicians provide comprehensive care. They help patients with all medical aspects of recovery, including a patient’s evaluation, addiction diagnosis and recovery treatment. They also help family members affected by their loved one’s addiction. Addiction medicine physicians need licenses and certifications.

  • Education: Doctor of Medicine degree, MD; or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, DO
  • Certification: American Board of Addiction Medicine, ABAM; American Board of Preventive Medicine, ABPM; or American Osteopathic Association, AOA
  • Licensing: State medical license
  • What they do: Treat the physical aspects of addiction and substance use, including prescribing medication

Behavioral Health Technician

Behavioral health technicians help doctors provide hands-on care. They are found in mental health facilities, hospitals, treatment centers and more. Behavioral health technicians are also called paraprofessionals, psychiatric technicians and mental health technicians. These technicians help patients with daily tasks.

BHTs can have a bachelor’s degree. On-the-job training is also essential for these professionals. In most states, behavioral health technicians are not licensed; however, the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians (AAPT), offers certifications.

  • Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Certification: AAPT
  • Licensing: Only in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri
  • What they do: Carry out doctor’s orders and provide hands-on care
  • Other names: Paraprofessionals, psychiatric technicians, and mental health technicians

Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor

Licensed chemical dependency counselors (LCDCs), are also called substance abuse counselors. Chemical dependency refers to the body’s response to substance use. Alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, and tobacco are examples of substances.

As their name suggests, these counselors are licensed. Licensing requires education, supervised work experience and testing. Frequently, LCDC education can vary. Most LCDCs have associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees.

  • Education: Associate degree, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree
  • Certification: Offered through schools
  • Licensing: Yes, by state
  • What they do: Counsel patients with addiction to substances
  • Other names: Substance abuse counselors

Substance Abuse Social Workers

Substance abuse social workers provide therapy and support. They help patients with mental health conditions and addiction. Their master’s degree in mental health prepares them to treat co-occurring disorders.

These social workers are also called mental health social workers. Substance abuse social workers must pass an exam and have supervised work experience to be licensed. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), offers optional certification.

  • Education: Master’s degree
  • Certification: NASW
  • Licensing: Yes, by state
  • What they do: Counsel and support patients with addiction and mental illness
  • Other names: Mental health social workers

Life Coach

life coach helps people get their lives back on track. They are also called enrichment specialists, recovery coaches and executive coaches. Most life coaches have professional training from an accredited life coach training program.

Life coaches don’t need licenses, but certifications are available. The Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE), the International Association of Coaching (IAC) and the International Coach Federation (ICF) are common credentialing organizations.


American Society of Addiction Medicine. “What is an Addiction Specialist?” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

Pennsylvania Certification Board. “Certified Intervention Professionals, CIP.” 2013. Accessed May 18, 2019.

National Association of Drug & Alcohol Interventionists. “Certified National Drug & Alcohol Interventionist, CNDAI.” Accessed May 18, 2019. “Why Addiction Counselors Go by So Many Names.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

National Board for Certified Counselors. “State Board Directory by State.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium. “Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselors, AADC.” Accessed May 18, 2019.

Association for Addiction Professionals. “Master Addiction Counselors, MAC.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry. “About Addiction Psychiatry.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

American Psychiatric Association. “What is Psychiatry?” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

American Psychiatric Association. “Maintain Your Certification and Licensure.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

The American Board of Preventative Medicine. “Addiction Medicine.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

American Osteopathic Addiction Medicine Examination Committee. “American Osteopathic Addiction Medicine […]xamination Committee.” 2017. Accessed May 18, 2019.

The American Medical Association. “Navigating state medical licensure.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

American Association of Psychiatric Technicians. “What is a Psychiatric Technician?” 2017. Accessed May 18, 2019.

American Association of Psychiatric Technicians. “The Certification Process.” 2017. Accessed May 18, 2019. “How Can I Become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor?” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019. “Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

National Association of Social Workers. “Apply for NASW Social Work Credentials.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

Green, Kathleen. “Life Coach: Career Outlook.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2017. Accessed May 18, 2019.

Center for Credentialing and Education. “Required Training: Board Certified Coach.” 2018. Accessed May 18, 2019.

Center for Credentialing and Education. “BCC Board Certified Coach.” 2018. Accessed May 18, 2019.

International Association of Coaching. “IAC Certification Overview.” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2019.

The International Coach Federation. “Tell the World You’re A Professional C[…] We’ll Back You Up.” Accessed May 8, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.