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The Difference Between a Certified Addiction Counselor and Professional

Just a few years ago, the Florida Certification Board had three counselor-level certifications including the Certified Addiction Specialist (CAS), Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) and Certified Addiction Professional (CAP). Eventually the CAS was discontinued. Some time thereafter, the FCB introduced a mandate that CAPs were required to have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to behavioral health. This seriously limited the number of applicants that could ultimately become a CAP.

With the CAC and CAP as the two remaining counselor level certifications in Florida, what is the difference and which is best?

To begin, the differences between these two courses include:

  • Education – the CAC requires a High School diploma while the CAP requires a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral health related field
  • Training – the CAP requires 350 hours of training from an education provider like us, while the CAC requires 270
  • Work experience – the CAC requires between 2,000 and 6,000 hours of work experience, depending on the applicant’s degree, while the CAP requires 6,000 hours.
  • On a more practical note the CAC and CAP differ in how they can practice and bill for services:

From the Florida Certification Board:

Individuals holding the CAP are a qualified professional under Chapter 397, Florida Statutes and the CAP credential is recognized for billable services under Florida’s State Medicaid Plan.

The CAC is an intermediate practice credential for people who work side-by-side with clinical staff to provide services to individuals with substance use conditions. A CAC is not qualified for independent practice and must work under appropriate supervision.

Is the Certified Addiction Counselor an Inferior Credential?

While the requirements are very different and the level of practice is as well, it is hard to say that one credential is “better” than another. The certifications are geared toward very different people. The major difference was reinforced when the Florida Certification Board increased the CAP requirement from any Bachelor’s degree to a related Bachelor’s degree.

How Does a CAC Thrive?

For most in the middle of their career, and with a high school diploma or equivalent, it is impractical to go back to school to get their bachelor’s. The Certified Addiction Counselor credential offers them the ability to practice on a counselor level, albeit under constant  supervision of a CAP or licensed professional. In other words, the CAC still offers many the ability to make a difference. Further, the CAC is reciprocal, through the IC&RC to may other states and territories, making it valuable even if the counselor moves out of Florida.

From a practical standpoint, The CAC will provide the following services:

  • Screening and assessment
  • Treatment planning
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Documentation
  • Psychoeducational
  • Client, family and community education

However the CAC cannot:

  • Be recognized as a qualified professional under Florida substance abuse statutes
  • Sign a Baker Act
  • Sign a Marchman Act
  • Diagnose
  • Prescribe medication

To learn more about the benefits of the CAC credential we encourage you to speak to the Florida Certification Board or one of our representatives. You may also wish to consult with the Human Resources department at your employer to learn more about how this credential would assist with your place at the company.