Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in West Virginia: Becoming a Credentialed Alcohol and Drug Counselor

West Virginia substance abuse counselors work under varying credentials. Some hold licensing in fields such as social work or counseling. Many positions require master’s degrees; sometimes these positions are denoted as “addiction therapist” or “substance abuse therapist”. There are also positions for professionals with formal education below the graduate level.

West Virginia substance abuse counselors can achieve third party certification through the West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals (WVCBAPP). The WVCBAPP is one of many boards around the nation that holds membership in the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, or IC&RC; some are governmental, some nongovernmental.

There are multiple pathways to certification. The WVSBAPP requires a total of six years of related education, experience, and training. However, higher attainment in one area may offset lower attainment in another. Some, but not all, experience must be addiction-specific. The WVCBAPP recognizes multiple levels of expertise. Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor is master’s level. Alcohol and Drug Counselor can be attained by individuals with or without academic degrees.

Reciprocity can be extended to out-of-state IC&RC credential holders.

Professionals should be aware that there have been attempts to institute licensing of master’s level addiction counselors.

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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Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) Requirements

An Alcohol and Drug Counselor will need to have general education at least equivalent to high school graduation. He or she must have an additional six years of experience and/ or education. Academic education may be credited as as many as three.

Three years of work experience must be in addictions. Addiction counseling experience is to be supervised by an Alcohol and Drug Counselor Supervisor (ADC-S) or by an Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (with or without supervisor designation). The amount of supervision will depend on degree level. With no related degree, the supervisory requirement is 300 hours. With a degree in a related field, supervisory requirements are as follows:

  • Associate degree: 250 hours
  • Bachelor’s degree: 200 hours
  • Master’s degree: 100 hours

Work experience may be drawn from the 12 domains and 46 global criteria identified by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC); these are identified in the applicant manual. The 12 domains have recently been consolidated into four. Screening, assessment, and engagement are treated as one domain as are collaboration, treatment planning, and referral. The applicant will document at least 10 hours in major domains.

If the individual that is working in a job where only a portion of the work is in addiction counseling, only the percentage of the work that is in addictions can be credited toward the addiction-specific work requirement.

Experience should have defined learning goals. Generally, supervised experience should be documented in supervisory log. However, an individual who has met experience requirements can document experience retrospectively. Instructions are found in the certification manual.

General experience should reflect the ability to work with other humans within a therapeutic context (for example, direct human service or work with therapeutic groups), though other work that involves direct contact may be considered.

The individual will need to document 270 contact hours of related education and training, at least 70 of which must be specific to addictions. If requirements are met through academic coursework, each qualifying three semester hour course can be credited as 45 hours.

The individual will need either 1) a six clock hour ethics class that is specifically focused on addiction counseling or 2) a university course in ethics. The candidate must pass the IC&RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) examination after other requirements have been met.

Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) Requirements

A prospective Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor must hold a degree at the master’s level, awarded by a regionally accredited institution. The master’s degree is to include clinical application in a human service or behavioral science field.

The individual will need 270 contact hours of related education and training, at least 180 of which must be specific to addictions.

The prospective AADC must have three years of addiction-specific work experience, at least one of which must be accrued post-master. Post-master experience must be clinically supervised by a professional who holds a degree in a behavioral science or human services discipline such as counseling, social work, or nursing.

A candidate must pass the IC&RC Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) examination before certification. Again, this requirement will be met post-application.

The Certification Application Process

Application materials can be downloaded from the WVCBAPP website ( The WVCBAPP has provided certification handbooks with details about the candidacy and certification process. Prospective certificate holders are asked to read them before making application. Alcohol and drug counselors must adhere to the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) code of ethics.

An ADC applicant will document a high school diploma (or provide a college transcript showing a bachelor’s degree). An AADC applicant will need an official transcript to document his or her master’s degree.

The certification agency will need two copies of application documents. Applications are to be submitted with a $75 fee. (Upgrade applications are to be submitted with a $25 fee.)

A candidate is not authorized to test until all other requirements have been met and documented. An approved candidate will be pre-registered for examination but will need to schedule a computer-delivered examination (CBT).

ADCs and AADCs recertify every other year. The West Virginia Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, like many boards around the nation, requires 40 hours of continuing education.

Additional Information

The West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals can provide information about addiction counseling certification ( The WVCBAPP can be reached by telephone at (304) 768-2942.

Information about substance abuse programs and facilities is available from the West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (BBHHF) Division on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (

The state NAADAC affiliate, the West Virginia Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Inc., is an additional professional resource (

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