Alcohol and Drug Counselor Specialization (ADCS) for MSSWs

Substance abuse is widely recognized as one of the top health and economic problems in the USA—attracting widespread attention. While there are many specialized treatment methods that are known to reduce or eliminate substance abuse, there is an identified shortage of qualified addiction counselors to skillfully implement these treatments.
Social work students should be aware of a professional credential, the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) certification, that is valued by third party reimbursement agencies and addiction treatment employers with comparable respect and compensation as the Licensed Clinical Social Work (LCSW) certificate within the broader field of mental health.  
Since 2004, the Kent School has prepared students for entry level jobs as alcohol and drug counselors or case managers with a specialized course of study known as the Alcohol and Drug Counseling Specialization (ADCS). The ADCS program has three primary objectives:

  1. Create recognition of a student’s commitment and expertise in substance abuse treatment,
  2. Help the students compete for alcohol and drug counseling jobs.
  3. Satisfy some of the requirements for obtaining the CADC credential (see State credentialing requirements).

Substance abuse as a problem:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) substance use disorders are highly prevalent in the USA with severe consequences to the individual, their family, and society. These disorders have been widely recognized as at or near the nation’s most costly and severe health care problems. Studies have suggested that the substance use disorders

  1. are among the most common of all mental disorders;
  2. are the most prevalent of all disorders among males;
  3. affect over half of all adult mental health, child welfare, and criminal justice populations;
  4. are a primary factor contributing to the spread of violence, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, sexually transmitted diseases, and incarceration;
  5. are present in over 20% of all families and cost the family over $6,000 per year;
  6. account for over 50% of all felonies and prison sentences; and
  7. cost the US public over $248 billion per year.

Need for Specialized Knowledge and Skills:
Fortunately, there is a large body of addiction treatment research evidence spanning several decades that has identified certain treatment and case-management methods that work, and others that do not.  Thus, effective treatment of substance abuse requires specialized clinical and case management knowledge and skills.  In Kentucky, the burgeoning cost of incarcerating addicted felons has led to the realization that the use of research supported treatment and case management practices are much more cost effective than incarceration, the latter demonstrating no effect on abstinence.  Passed into law in 2011, Kentucky House Bill 463, for the first time, moves criminal justice funding to treatment of substance-use disorders.

ADCS student benefits:
Students who prepare themselves for a career in addiction counseling have a better chance of employment in the field and satisfy some requirements of the CADC. Past students have reported that the ADCS provides a competitive advantage when applying for substance abuse jobs, and that it is viewed as a plus in all counseling interviews, given that substance abuse is a major factor adversely affecting most social work populations.

Some of the Kentucky CADC requirements are satisfied while completing requirements of the ADCS and ADCT programs.

  • They fully satisfy the 270 hours of ADCS classroom hour requirements (see disclaimer).
  • They satisfy some of the 300 hours of the CADC supervision requirement when and if we are able to place students in practicum placements where they are supervised by a CADC.
  • The CADC work hours of on the job addiction treatment practice experience are described under 201 KAR 35:070.  A post graduate work hour requirements of 6,000 hours is reduced to 2,000 hours for  students who complete the MSSW degree with an ADCS.

Requirements of the KY CADC certification:

Students interested in the CADC certification program are responsible for understanding all requirements of the CADC program in your state (see disclaimer). The ADCS program was designed to fit with KY CADC requirements published on the Alcohol and Drug Counselors web site at  For a summary of current KY state CADC requirements, we recommend that you locate and review the current application for a CADC. Note: The ADCS does not satisfy all requirements of the CADC.  Students are responsible for verifying the current requirements and remaining current on changes in the CADC requirements (see disclaimer).
ADCS Requirements:
Enrollment: The ADCS is awarded to Kent School students, concurrent with the award of their MSSW degree.  Kent graduates or other post bachelor students who wish to take ADCS courses, should contact the Kent School student enrollment staff or the program Director listed at the bottom of this page about current status of enrollment in classes.  There are three  requirements for completing the ADCS program:

  1. satisfactorily complete three elective classes (listed below) with a grade of B or better,
  2. satisfactorily complete the advanced practicum in a substance abuse treatment setting, and
  3. complete 1-1/2  hour advanced practicum seminars concurrently with the final practicum in both Fall and Spring semesters.   Coordination of practicum is the responsibility of the Kent School Director of Field Education (see contact information below).

Required classes and availability:
In addition to the normal requirements of the MSSW program, students must receive a grade of a “B” or better on the three ADCS core classes taken in any order (no prerequisites).

  1. SW660 for MSSW students and SW360 (or SW397) for BSW students:  Motivation and change (offered in Fall, Spring and summer semesters)
  2. SW661 for MSSW students and SW361 for BSW students:  Advanced issues in drug and alcohol counseling (offered in Fall and Spring semesters)
  3. SW662 for MSSW students and SW362 for BSW students:  Substance abuse (to be offered in Spring as a normal class, and in the Summer as an online class)
  4. SW672 for MSSW students:  Fall advanced practicum class
  5. SW673 for MSSW students:  Spring advanced practicum class
  6. SW678 for MSSW students.:  Fall advanced practicum seminar (1-1/2 hour)
  7. SW679 for MSSW students:  Spring advanced practicum seminar (1-1/2 hour)

Class hour requirements for the CADC:

These classes satisfy 180 classroom hours towards completion of the CADC substance abuse specific classroom hours.  In recent years, the Kentucky CADC board has accepted practice and HBSW classes that will complete the total of 270 class hour requirement.  Also, SW661 includes CADC training requirements for Ethics (6 hours) and HIV (2 hours) as well as KY licensing requirements for 12 hours of case management training.

ADCS Enrollment

There is a limit of advanced practicum sites available for the ADCS program.  Because of this, beginning with the Fall 2013, the ADCS program will be limited to approximately 12 advanced practicum students.

  • Submit a 3 page professional development paper discussing your interests, past experience in the substance abuse field, need for professional development, potential contribution and plans after graduation.
  • Submit updated resume.


Application for Specializations


  • Who is eligible? All students who are in good standing in the Kent School MSSW program are eligible to apply; however a limited number are accepted based upon the number of advanced practicum sites available.  See ADCS enrollment in the prior paragraph.
  • Are classes available on weekends? At this time only SW662/SW362 (substance abuse) is offered on Saturday and SW660 (motivation and change) is offered on Friday morning.
  • Are classes offered online? Currently SW662/SW362 (substance abuse) is offered as an online class in the summer.
  • How do I enroll? You must enroll by completing an application. The current application is currently being revised and will be made available by December 2012. Also see ADCS enrollment above.
  • Will the ADCS or ADCT appear on my University transcripts? Yes.

Notification of anticipated completion and graduation:
Students who are completing the requirements of the ADCS are required to notify the student services offices when they file for graduation.  This allows us to verify completion of ADCS requirements and insures award if certificates.

Related contact information and links

Shelia Cundiff, LCSW, CADC, Interim Coordinator:  Phone 502-216-0425 or email Shelia Cundiff

Patrick McKiernan, CADC, PhD, Co-Director of ADCT and ADCT programs: Email Patrick McKiernan

Martha Fuller, Director of MSSW Field Education: Email Martha Fuller

KY CADC board and requirements: Visit for requirements and application for the KY CADC.
The University is not affiliated with any CADC board, and cannot be held responsible for errors or inaccuracies that may exist in this document. The student is responsible for working with their respective CADC state board in completing requirements and applying for this credential.  In Kentucky, the student must verify any information related to the process of obtaining a CADC at  Approval for hours of supervision, and classroom hours are based upon prior board member statements and approvals. However, the CADC laws and regulations are subject to interpretation and change without notice. For these and other reasons, the Kent School of Social Work nor the University of Louisville can warrant or guarantee accuracy of this CADC information or approval of their requirements.

Students must apply to specializations by January 30th during the January before their Advanced (final) year of study.