Substance Abuse Counselor Certification and License Requirements in Virginia

The Virginia Board of Counseling credentials substance abuse counselors at several levels of practice. Virginia’s Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioners are master’s level professionals. Certified Substance Abuse Counselors are bachelor’s level professionals. Substance abuse counselor assistants may hold any level of education from high school graduation on.

Capella University offers three online CACREP - accredited Master's programs: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy and School Counseling. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.

Antioch University offers a new Online MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that is in the CACREP accreditation process and mirrors the CACREP-accredited program delivered on campus. Specializations in: Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling (SAAC) and Counseling Military Service Personnel and their Families (MSPF). Antioch is a private, not-for-profit university. (*This program is NOT available to students in CA, IL, IA, KS, MO, NH, ND)

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Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner Requirements

A substance abuse treatment practitioner will need a degree at the master’s level or higher; it may be in substance abuse counseling or a related counseling discipline. The prospective licensee will need a total of at least 60 semester hours of graduate coursework. He or she must demonstrate coursework in 13 areas identified by the Board. The list includes typical counseling course offerings such as counseling and psychotherapy theories, counseling and psychotherapy techniques, and pscychopathology/ abnormal behavior. The student will need a course in marriage and family systems. Requirements are described in the application packet.

Included in the coursework requirement is a 600-hour internship. At least 450 of the internship hours must be specific to the treatment of substance use disorder. No fewer than 240 total internship hours must comprise direct client contact. Of these, at least 200 must be specific to the treatment of substance use disorder.

If the program is not accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), it must meet general program requirements described in 18VAC115-60-60 of administrative code. Educational requirements are subject to change. Prospective treatment practitioners are responsible for meeting requirements that are in effect at the time they initiate their supervision.

The prospective LSATP will complete a 4,000 hour residency that includes at least 2,000 hours of direct client contact. The resident will need at least 200 hours of supervision over the course of his or her supervised work period. (The Board can credit one to four hours of supervision per 40-hour experience period.)

The supervised experience will need to cover the following:

  • Counseling and case management
  • Treatment planning, implementation, and documentation
  • Service coordination and referral
  • Education of clients, families, and community
  • Clinical evaluation
  • Ethical responsibilities and professional identity

The resident will need to register supervision at the onset.

Out-of-state supervision may be accepted following verification.

First-time licensure is by examination. This step is completed after application and Board approval.

There are several pathways to endorsement. One is to hold a license based on similar requirements. Another is to have met education and examination requirements of the original state of licensure and have practiced at least 24 of the prior 60 months; in this case, practice must be post-licensure.

A professional can also be licensed on the basis of a mental health license that required a 60 semester hour graduate program provided that the counselor meets at least one additional requirement from the list that is included in state administrative code. Among the options for meeting the requirement is national substance abuse treatment certification recognized by the Board.

Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements

A prospective substance abuse counselor will need a bachelor’s degree and 400 hours of substance abuse education. The education may be completed through an academic institution or as workshops or seminars. Workshops and seminars must be approved by an accepted organization. There are many accepted approval organizations, representing different disciplines.

The Board recognizes the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) and all state NAADAC affiliates and can accept the approval of a number of other mental health professional associations and credentialing agencies, including the following:

  • National Board for Certified Counselors
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (and state affiliates)
  • American Counseling Association (and state or local affiliates)
  • Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification

The Board can also accept education offered by continuing competency sponsors that have been approved by the counseling boards in other states.

220 of the education hours are to be didactic. The student will need 20 hours each of education in 1) treatment planning and research and 2) group counseling.

He or she will need a minimum of 10 hours in each of the following:

  • Human behavioral dynamics
  • Treatment approaches
  • Substance abuse signs and symptoms
  • Case management skills/ service continuum
  • Recovery process/ relapse prevention
  • Crisis intervention
  • Professional identity as a substance abuse provider
  • Ethics

180 hours are to be experiential. Experiential education is to offer preparation in the following:

  • Screening
  • Intake
  • Orientation
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Assessment
  • Treatment planning
  • Case management
  • Crisis intervention
  • Client education
  • Referral/ assistance in utilizing community resources
  • Consultation with other professionals
  • Reporting and charting

A candidate will take a written examination after his or her credentials have been approved.

The prospective CSAC will need to accrue 2,000 hours of experience under approved supervision. Group supervision may account for no more than half. Supervision must be registered. An individual who applies for Virginia licensure based on experience accrued in another state will need to document that his or her supervisor was appropriately licensed.

Endorsement may be granted on the basis of a license or certification that was issued under similar requirements.

The Application Process

Individuals seeking first-time credentialing submit applications when they are ready to begin supervised practice. There is a $50 fee to register supervision.

Application materials are available from the Board of Counseling (https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/counseling/counseling_forms.htm).

Applicants must perform self-queries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Practitioner Data Bank.

Applicants who hold, or have held, mental health or healthcare licensing must submit verification. An applicant cannot be endorsed if he or she has current disciplinary proceedings. Past discipline can be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Certification applicants pay $90.

Certification is renewed annually.

Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Assistant Requirements

A substance abuse counselor assistant will need education at at least the high school level; a GED is acceptable. The individual will need at least 300 hours of substance abuse counseling education, to comprise 120 didactic hours and 180 experiential training hours. Didactic education must be distributed in the manner dictated by state code. Education may take any of the following forms: college coursework, a Board-approved integrated program, or an individualized program of seminars and workshops; an individualized program must be approved by the Board at the time of application.

The prospective CSAC-A will need to pass a jurisprudence examination. This step takes place after application.

Additional Information

Information is available from the Virginia Board of Counseling (https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/counseling/). The Board can be reached at (804) 367-4610 or ‘coun at dhp.virginia.gov’.

The Virginia Association of Addiction Professionals is an additional professional resource (http://vaaddictionpros.org/).

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