How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Arizona

Substance abuse counselors support clients struggling with addiction. They create treatment plans, identify recovery resources, and offer individual and group counseling. Over 5,000 substance abuse and mental health counselors work in Arizona. Like other types of Arizona counselors, substance abuse counselors must hold a valid license to practice. Arizona counseling requirements include education, supervised work experience, and testing requirements.

The Board of Behavioral Health Examiners grants licensure for substance abuse counselors in Arizona. Individuals can pursue multiple licenses, depending on their education and profession. These include the licensed associate substance abuse counselor (LASAC) credential for candidates with a bachelor's degree and the licensed independent substance abuse counselor (LISAC) credential for those with a master's degree. Professionals must renew their license and complete periodic continuing education requirements. The board also provides information for out-of-state substance abuse counselors looking to work in the state.

Keep reading to learn how to become a substance abuse counselor in Arizona.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Arizona

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Arizona here

Education and Experience Requirements

Substance abuse counselors in Arizona must meet certain education and experience requirements to complete the licensure process. The Board of Behavioral Health Examiners reviews an applicant's materials to make sure they meet licensure requirements. Candidates must also maintain their license by meeting continuing education requirements.

Academic Requirements

In Arizona, LASACs must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Candidates with advanced degrees can also apply for this credential. LISACs must hold a master's degree or higher from a regionally accredited institution, and the degree should be in a behavioral health service field.

The Board of Behavioral Health Examiners requires at least 24 semester credits in counseling coursework for these credentials. Current LASACs who earn a master's degree can apply for the LISAC credential by submitting an application demonstrating that they have completed the additional education and professional requirements. Visit this page to learn more about counseling education and careers.

Interested in pursuing an education in substance abuse counseling? See the following pages to learn about counseling academic programs by level:

Substance Abuse Counseling Coursework

Arizona requires substance abuse counselors to complete specific coursework. For example, candidates must complete at least three semester credits (or four quarter credits) in areas like psychopharmacology, models of treatment and relapse prevention, group dynamics in addictions and substance use disorders, and working with diverse populations. In total, applicants must take 21 semester credits covering seven topic areas. The Board of Behavioral Health Examiners reviews official transcripts to ensure candidates meet these requirements. Substance abuse counselors also demonstrate their competency by passing an examination.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Arizona substance abuse counselors must meet supervised work experience requirements to earn their license. Applicants need to demonstrate at least 3,200 hours of supervised work experience in a two-year period. Candidates must complete these hours after earning their degree. At least 50 hours must occur under the supervision of an LISAC.

The Exam and Application Process for Arizona Substance Abuse Counselors

Candidates for licensure submit official transcripts, verification of supervised work experience and clinical supervision hours, and a copy of their test scores to the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. Both the LASAC and LISAC credentials require a $250 application fee.

Prospective substance abuse counselors seeking the associate or independent license must pass a state-approved examination. Arizona accepts three exams for substance abuse licensure:

  • Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor Examination offered by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium
  • National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Exam; Level II or higher
  • Examination for Master Addictions Counselors offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors

Applicants must also provide legal proof of residency in the United States and a copy of their driver's license, state-issued ID, or Social Security card. The board also requires a copy of an Arizona Department of Public Health fingerprint clearance card or a complete set of fingerprints, plus $40 to conduct a criminal history background check.

Out-of-state Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Arizona offers a license by endorsement option for out-of-state substance abuse counselors. Candidates provide an endorsement application form, an official transcript demonstrating a degree that meets the license requirements, verification of professional credentials, and employment history from the previous seven years (including any gaps in employment of more than one month).

Candidates submit their completed application to the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, which reviews the application and notifies the applicant of any required examinations or additional required materials. License by endorsement applicants must also complete two tutorials covering Arizona statutes and regulations, along with clinical supervision requirements.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

In Arizona, substance abuse counselor licenses remain valid for two years. To renew their license, professionals must complete 30 hours of continuing education credits each two-year cycle. Substance abuse professionals should take at least 20 hours related to state-approved topics, including addiction processes, models of substance abuse disorder and addiction treatment, relapse prevention, and substance abuse disorder and addiction assessment and diagnostic criteria.

Professionals submit a license renewal application that logs their continuing education hours. Applicants also submit information about their employer and a background questionnaire. License renewal costs $325, which is paid to the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners.

To renew their license, professionals must complete 30 hours of continuing education credits each two-year cycle

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Arizona

Professional resources and organizations can help substance abuse counselors stay current in their field and connect with peers. These organizations also support counselors by offering continuing education resources, providing guidance on licensing requirements, and hosting events. Students benefit from these resources when transitioning from school to the workforce.

  • Arizona Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors The state affiliate of NAADAC, this association connects addiction counseling professionals and advocates for licensure and certification standards. The association also promotes awareness of chemical dependency issues.
  • Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners This board establishes and maintains standards for licensed behavioral health professionals in the state. The site provides information about licensure, verification, and license renewal.
  • Arizona Counselors Association This association provides continuing education opportunities, holds events to connect counselors, and runs a career center that lists counselor job openings in the state.
  • Arizona Department of Health Services ADHS provides resources for clinicians, including clinical guidelines, public health program information, and educational resources for patients. The department also provides training opportunities.
  • Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline Arizona's substance abuse helpline provides support for people struggling with substance abuse disorders or mental health issues. The helpline also offers resources on treatment options.
  • Arizona Substance Abuse Partnership Run by the Governor's Office on Youth, Faith, and Family, ASAP offers trainings, resources, and data related to substance abuse in Arizona.
  • The Association for Addiction Professionals Dating back to 1972, NAADAC represents more than 100,000 addiction professionals worldwide. NAADAC provides professional development resources — including educational resources and certifications — and conferences with networking opportunities.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Arizona NAMI Arizona provides support groups and programs throughout the state, including information about crisis lines. The organization also holds meetings and events to connect mental health and substance abuse professionals.
  • Southwest Behavioral & Health Services This organization offers training, continuing education opportunities, and events for substance abuse professionals. The organization also shares career information.
  • Substance Abuse Arizona Run by the Governor's Office on Youth, Faith, and Family, this site provides information on prevention, treatment, and recovery services, including training opportunities and grants for counselors.

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