Credentialing Survey Results

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

In the final week of 2019, the CCB created a survey to gauge professionals’ beliefs about the importance of credentialing.  We purposely did not specify any one type of credential, because the value of the data is in the overall opinion and we didn’t want to sway the responses toward either specialty board certification or state licensure.  We received responses from 320 professionals from around the country, with the only requested demographic data being their highest level of education achieved.

We asked individuals to rate 3 qualities of credentialing from most important to least important.  Those qualities, in order of importance from the survey data were:

  • Verification of a professional’s competency (to provide services) - 179 total votes, 56.47%
  • The requirement to follow a prescribed code of ethical behavior – 118 total votes, 37.22%
  • The ability to bill for services provided – 20 total responses, 6.31%

The responses, although not surprising, are interesting based on the following:

A license is a state’s grant of legal authority to practice a profession within a designated scope of practice. Under a licensure system, states define by statute the tasks and function or scope of practice of a profession and provide that these tasks may be legally performed only by those who are licensed (IC&RC).  This is done through legislative activity with or without input from experts.  Like any other legislation, it is subject to public review.  In short, the state defines the scope of practice and grants permission to professionals to practice within that identified scope.  In Connecticut, there are approximately 900 individuals who are Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors, all at the master’s level or higher. Only those with licensure can independently bill third party payers for services rendered.

Certification is often provided by a private organization for the purpose of providing the public protection on those individuals who have successfully met all requirements for the credential and demonstrated their ability to perform their profession competently.  It represents the achievement of a level of professional competency agreed by the international community as qualified to practice effectively (IC&RC). In short, it is verification of one’s competency as determined by experts (often international) in the field. For substance use disorder and co-occurring disorder professionals in Connecticut, there are two available levels of certification, bachelor’s and below, and advanced at the master’s or higher level. There is no ability to independently bill for services.  In Connecticut, there are 640 certified substance use disorder professionals, including 200 at the master’s level.

When it comes to public protection, at least in Connecticut, certified professionals are required to adhere to a specific code of ethics. Any possible breaches of this ethical code are investigated through a standardized process.  The Code of Ethics AND the disciplinary procedures are publicly available at Although licensed professionals are also required to adhere to a code of ethics, there is no standardized and published set of disciplinary procedures that each investigation is required to follow.  That can put any sanction that is offered into legal jeopardy.

To close, the data gathered in this survey does not necessarily mirror the reality of credentialing in the field as individuals, at least here in Connecticut, hold licensure over certification at a 9:2 rate, when the verification of competency is not a function of licensure.  At first glance, it would seem that the ability to bill holds a 450% advantage over verification of competency, but that may be unrealistic without further investigation.  There are several reasons why individuals may hold the value of licensure over certification, including being unaware of the actual purposes for each and perhaps employer preference of licensure.

To close, what we see in practice versus what the survey are in direct inverse proportion. The only clear thing to take from this is that certification bodies, specifically the CCB, need to do a better job of educating professionals on the overall value and importance of their credentials.

A note of thanks to all that participated!

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