Journey to a profession: Part III | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

Journey to a profession: Part III

September 14, 2011
by Donald P. Osborn
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Could a "new era" in addiction treatment be ushered in at NCAD?

Editor’s note: At the 2010 National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD), attendees celebrated three years of work completed by the National Addiction Studies and Standards Collaborative Committee (NASSCC) that culminated in establishing the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC).

At the 2011 NCAD conference, to be held Sept. 17-21 in San Diego, two workshops related to these developments will be held. One will roll out the national standardized addictions curriculum with the new scope of practice. The second will be related to changes coming in the move from certification toward professional licensure in addiction.

This article is the last in a three-part series (click to read Part I and Part II) written by Donald P. Osborne, president of NADAAC, which attempts to put the path that the field has taken into a historical context, as well as present a template for a new era in the counseling profession.

SAMHSA and the creation of NASSCC

In 2006, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) established an education grant to Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU). With the completion of the IWU program template, the next step was to move forward with the template to a national collaboration.
With SAMHSA’s continued interest and assistance through NAADAC and the National Certification Commission (NCC), the first national study group was established.

The study group was charged with the creation of national curriculum standards for addiction study programs in higher education. The standards were to encompass entry-level certificate courses through a PhD.

The next phase involved creating a national scope of practice and career ladder. In doing this, addictions would move from a field to a profession. This gave hope that the field would not erode away to allied practitioners, but would develop its own identity through higher education and professional equity.

In coordination with SAMHSA, study group members were evaluated and selected from stakeholders in higher education, research, government, practice and the consumer sector. The study group became NASSCC.

Convened in 2007, it would meet by phone conferences over the next three years and would develop needs assessment items, priorities, projects and timelines. Toward the final year of the process, several face-to-face meetings were conducted, at which time an advisory group was established, made up of representatives of the same stakeholder groups.

NASSCC then moved to academic degree study groups. Several other accredited degree programs from certificate through doctoral programs were brought in for evaluation, analysis and comparison with IWU programs. Each study group was tasked with researching and developing content of course work, course description, learning objectives and outcomes.

In early 2010, NASSCC completed its work and submitted a final report to SAMHSA for review.

The process then moved toward establishing the profession’s accrediting body. One of the major partners in NASSCC was INCASE, which over the past several years had brought sound research and credibility to higher education efforts in addiction studies programs. NAADAC as well had established its Approved Provider in Higher Education status.

Both groups had expertise in various parts of higher education, and in mutual efforts had worked to pool their resources for the profession. That collaboration legally established NASAC in 2010.

While higher education has the HLC, NASAC will be the professional accrediting body for addiction studies programs. NASAC will accredit only programs that have institutional accreditation by the HLC. This will ensure integrity for the profession and student.

In short, the profession will have a central place of oversight for the practice of addiction counseling. Higher education in the addiction profession will now direct the components of certification, testing and licensure.

The new era in addiction

National healthcare reform law is facing challenges from more than 20 state attorney general’s offices. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. At that time, Title V of the law will go into effect with regard to educational requirements to provide clinical services in mental health and addictions. This portion of the bill speaks to “integrated services” and delineates the requirements for provision of service.

Regardless of the status of the law, the clinical structure will go forward. The new reality of providing services, originally started by managed care, will go further.

It is here that many in the addiction profession have been given warning regarding new requirements to practice counseling. Many who now provide services will need to evaluate their level of preparation.