Top Five Things to Know About NCC AP

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Advances in Addiction & Recovery.

By James “Kansas” Cafferty, LMFT, MAC, NCAAC, NCC AP Chair

As the readership of Advances in Addiction and Recovery continues to grow, I want to take the opportunity to share with you and get down to brass tacks about exactly what the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCC AP) does! For this little pocket of the magazine, get ready, because I am going to give you my top five things to know about NCC AP.

#1 Credentialing

Some of you may be very familiar with the advantages of a NAADAC membership and some of you may just recognize and respect NAADAC for its work in furthering the addiction treatment profession. You may not realize, however, that a healthy part of our organization – the NCC AP – works exclusively in providing and maintaining national certifications for addiction professionals. It does not matter if you are a peer recovery support specialist, an addiction counselor at the associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate career level, or a doctoral-level psychologist, as each level is covered by NCC AP. NCC AP provides up-to-date, recognizable credentialing for your career. The one thing payors consistently ask for in our national “alphabet soup” of credentials is something they know – and they know NCC AP credentials.

Upgrading your career and standing out with a national credential is great for professionals, as well as for the profession itself! People seeking treatment with you can be assured that you have passed the most current addiction counseling exams in the country, and that you have evidenced your training and skills! If you would like more information or to learn where you might land on our career ladder, visit the NAADAC website at to learn more.

#2 Up-to-Date Exams

NCC AP currently has the most up-to-date credentialing exams in the country. For some of you, this may sound like it means they are more difficult to pass. On the contrary, it means your recent and relevant education or your diligence in acquiring continuing education over the years will really pay off because your knowledge on best and evidence-based practices will be reflected in the exams.

In addition, this means you are joining a class of addiction professionals unparalleled by any other organization due to the recency of our last major psychometric update. You may be thinking, psychomet…. what? All NCC AP exams go through regular and rigorous updates with the assistance of a trained psychometrician. Psychometrics is the field of study of mental capacities and processes, which ensures that we are testing what we mean to test and nothing else. In short, the exams contain no surprises and are just an honest assessment of your knowledge and competency to be an addiction professional.

#3 Worldwide Adoption

NCC AP’s three core exams and our International Basic Level test are currently being translated into 22 languages! Oh, did we forget to mention that while our mission is to achieve national standards for addiction professionals, our work has been recognized by similar international efforts such as by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affair’s (INL) Drug Demand Reduction Program? Together with INL, the United States Department of State, the Colombo Plan, and the Global Certification and Credentialing Commission, we are bringing our core exams to the world.

Counselors who may not speak the same language now have a common ground in the examination test for addiction practice at all levels and a common foundational platform from which to perform their work, inclusive of adherence to the NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics. The NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics, much like the exams provided by NCC AP, is the most thorough and respected in the world. You can find the NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics at

#4 Code of Ethics

NCC AP believes strongly in the NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics, and every professional who carries one of the NCC AP credentials has agreed to abide by this code by applying and receiving an NCC AP credential. In fact, every counselor who has passed one of our exams must be knowledgeable in this code. Whether what you need is an answer about how to conduct yourself if you find yourself in a treatment program that is engaged in “body brokering” (the illegal act of buying or selling referrals), or you are unsure of what you can do as a counselor with your patients on social media or telehealth, you will find guidance embedded throughout this code. The assurance that counselors who carry our credentials and have agreed to this code is, without a doubt, one of the greatest acts of public protection being provided within our industry today. You can find the NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics at

#5 Reciprocity

Finally, we get to that magic word many of us are curious about: reciprocity. NAADAC and NCC AP’s mission is to bring the addiction industry together. When this vision is realized, counselors will be able to move state to state and territory to territory (and possibly country to country) seamlessly and without fear of losing their careers due to archaic rules. This is, of course, built upon the foundation of public protection. Our clients will also be able to move state to state and receive consistent and quality care!

Aligned with this mission is NCC AP’s policy that if you carry a commensurate credential, it will allow you to transfer it into the appropriate NCC AP credential. Creating obstacles for addiction counselors that in turn creates obstacles for the clients they serve decidedly does not meet muster with NCC AP’s values as an organization. NCC AP has elected to honor you and the work you do without any competitive complexities to bog you down. If you are carrying a state credential, received it by passing one of several similar exams that are not NCC AP-specific, and are current on your CE requirements, we would love to help you join us in our mission by adding an NCC AP credential to your arsenal.

James “Kansas” Cafferty, LMFT, MAC, NCAAC, serves as the Chair to the National Certification for Addiction Professionals. He has been in the field of substance use disorder treatment since 1997, a year after he entered into recovery himself. He currently serves as the Clinical Director at the Aton Center, a residential treatment center based in the suburbs of San Diego, CA. He has been an active member of NAADAC for 15 years.
Posted by Noelle Dondero at 13:09