Yet another blogger has criticized and mischaracterized substance use disorder treatment providers based on faulty information. On September 15, a harm-reduction advocate named Kenneth Anderson published a blog post under the headline “The Training Manual for US Addiction Counselors is Full of Myths.” We read it and found it had plenty of “myths” — for want of another word — of its own.

It accused the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) of requiring training counselors “to memorize long-debunked myths originating in the 12-step-dominated treatment industry.” It quoted a National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions study and said that 90 percent of people recovered from dependence without treatment (what it did not say was that 87 percent of people in the sample were dependent on nicotine).

It relies on one study guide, Getting Ready To Test from the Distance Learning Center, to lambaste IC&RC, which does not produce study guides for its exams (that would be a conflict of interest). There are many training materials that are available. And the criticisms Anderson levies at IC&RC and the study guide are all based on his point of view — that AA is harmful, and that IC&RC is to blame for even allowing it to be mentioned in training manuals. He inaccurately portrays IC&RC and addiction counselors as being opposed to harm reduction. His post ends with this: “Who is to say how many of the people served by all these professionals have suffered additional harm—even death—from their addictions as a direct result of the inaccurate information contained in Getting Ready to Test? It’s high time to reform the credentialing process, teach accurate information and replace mythology with science.”

You can read his entire post at http://www.substance.com/the-training-manual-for-us-addiction-counselors-is-full-of-myths/12204/

Counselor Job Analysis

Had Anderson contacted IC&RC, he would have learned that they also are advocates of harm reduction. “Mr. Anderson did not contact IC&RC for verification of statements made in his article relative to our credentials and practices,” said IC&RC’s Mary Jo Mather in an email to ADAW. “Had he done so, much of the information could have been corrected.” For example, she said, IC&RC’s Alcohol and Drug Counselor 2013 Job Analysis (JA) does include harm reduction. The JA task statement for IC&RC alcohol and drug counselors calls for utilizing “multiple pathways of recovery in treatment planning and referral” and requires knowledge of:

  • Benefits and limitations of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.
  • Benefits and limitations of other recovery support approaches.
  • Benefits and limitations of harm-reduction-based models of recovery.
  • Ways in which medical consultation and treatment may enhance the recovery process.

As for the specific manual (which was very selectively quoted for the Anderson blog post), “There are many varied training tools available on the market, including flash cards, practice exams, online trainings, study guides, etc., all developed by independent organizations who market to addiction professionals,” said Mather. “No one has access to IC&RC examinations; not ReadyToTest.com which is referenced in Mr. Anderson’s article or any other organization.”

IC&RC does provide for free its JAs, which are developed by subject matter experts and the testing company, said Mather. “JAs identify domains, tasks, knowledge, skills and abilities for each IC&RC credential,” she said. “JAs are then used as a basis for developing curricula, trainings and study materials by organizations and colleges/universities.”

IC&RC does not have a formal process of reviewing and approving training and education materials, said Mather. “As such, content of training and education and content of study guides is not reviewed or vetted through IC&RC,” she said.

DLC responds

The other organization mentioned in the blog post but not contacted was the Distance Learning Center, which makes the guide. “Our Getting Ready To Test study guide is not a training manual,” said Kevin Scheel, CEO and director of education services for DLC, in an email to ADAW. “It is what we present it to be — a study guide designed to assist students who are seeking drug/alcohol credentialing.”

When students come to ReadyToTest.com, they already have their training hours and work experience in hand, said Scheel. “We work to provide them with materials to refresh many of the core elements they have already studied — after all, many of these students have worked for 2 years or more to gather the training hours they must have.” Scheel added that he is “quite proud of the fact that we have been doing this since 1992 and have tens of thousands of students that have been able to obtain their credential as a drug/alcohol professional with our help.”

Scheel said that Anderson did not contact him or anyone at the Distance Learning Center. “I am happy at any time to discuss this with anyone, sharing my thoughts and ideas while listening to yours,” he said. “I would have gladly entertained such a discussion with Mr. Anderson, but this did not happen. I do see from one of the comments posted with his blog that he claims to have reached out to me for feedback and comment. Yet a search of our email and phone logs do not indicate that we ever received an email, a fax, or a phone call. All of our contact information can be found at the bottom of our ReadyToTest.com website, including phone, fax, and email contact information. I’m really not that hard to find. To suggest that I ‘blew him off with no reply’ is both dishonest and far from the truth.”

Editor's Note: This article was updated to reflect the fact that the Distance Learning Center, LLC is the parent company. ReadyToTest.com is one division, which does test prep; the other division is DLCAS.com, which provides continuing education hours by distance learning.