How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Connecticut

Substance abuse counselors provide valuable aid to people struggling with alcohol, drug, tobacco, gambling, or other addictions or eating disorders. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Connecticut had the highest location quotient of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors across the U.S. in 2016.

Substance abuse counselors apply for licensure through the state's Department of Public Health. Applicants must meet educational standards and complete a large number of supervised practice hours to be approved for licensure.

People considering a career in substance abuse counseling should take concrete steps toward securing their futures. Below, students will find the educational, practical, and examination requirements to become a licensed substance abuse counselor in Connecticut.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Connecticut

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Connecticut here

Education and Experience Requirements

In order to become a licensed substance abuse counselor, students must complete a defined set of academic requirements. In the following sections, candidates will find information on the required undergraduate and graduate degrees, along with requirements for coursework and practical experience.

Academic Requirements

Licensure in Connecticut requires a master's degree in social work, marriage and family therapy, counseling, psychology, or a related field from an accredited institution and a minimum of 18 hours in graduate-level counseling.

Students looking to pursue a master's degree should consider undergraduate degrees in counseling, psychology, or sociology to help them prepare for graduate work. Graduate schools often require an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution.

Applicants should consider whether onsite learning or online learning best suits their needs. A number of universities offer accredited online counseling programs at either the undergraduate or graduate levels.

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

In total, the Connecticut Department of Health requires 360 credits of approved education, at least 240 hours of which must be related to the knowledge and skills associated with the practice of alcohol and drug abuse counseling.

A master's program in counseling explores ethics, advocacy, outreach, and evidence-based practice. Sample courses include theory and technique of substance abuse, cultural diversity in counseling, and research methods in counseling.

Applicants must show proof of completion through a verification form on the Department of Health website or through certification by a member of the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC).

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Applicants for licensure need 300 hours of supervised practical training in alcohol and drug counseling and three years of supervised work experience with alcohol and drug clients. Candidates can complete their work experience through a paying job or an unpaid internship.

Applicants can substitute a master's degree for one year of the required experience.

The Exam and Application Process for Connecticut Substance Abuse Counselors

Apart from the educational and practical requirements, applicants must complete the International Certification Examination for alcohol and other drug abuse counselors, which the IC&RC administers. This organization offers six international exams in total, including alcohol and drug counselor (ADC) and advanced alcohol and drug counselor (AADC). The average passing rate for the ADC exam was 71% and 60% for the AADC in 2018, according to IC&RC internal data.

Candidates must also submit:

  • A completed application form with an attached photograph

  • A verification form documenting 300 hours of supervised practice

  • A verification form documenting three years of supervised work

  • A verification form documenting completion of 360 hours of approved education

  • Official transcripts for a master's degree in social work, counseling, or a related field

  • Official verification of all professional licenses, certificates, or registrations (current or expired) held by the applicant as an alcohol and drug counselor

  • $190 application fee

Applicants must also pass a criminal background check and provide their social security numbers, current addresses, and phone numbers. Applications are submitted online through the Department of Health website. Verification of transcripts, examination completion, and other official documents must come from the relevant institutions, not the candidates.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Out-of-state substance abuse counselor candidates go through a similar process as in-state candidates in Connecticut. They must submit applications and official verification of any licenses, certifications, or registrations they hold as alcohol and substance abuse counselors, either current or expired.

Candidates from out of state must meet many of the same requirements as in-state candidates. Certification by an IC&RC board can waive some of the educational hours needed.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Licensed substance abuse counselors must renew their certifications annually through the Department of Health, which serves as the Connecticut counselor board. Before submitting for renewal, counselors must complete 20 hours of continuing education.

Continuing education only qualifies in areas related to the counselor's practice. Counselors can complete hours in a variety of places, such as hospitals, other licensed healthcare institutions, colleges and universities, or courses offered by a list of organizations approved by the Connecticut Certification Board (CCB). Counselors need a certificate of completion from their continuing education providers to prove they met renewal requirements.

Licensed substance abuse counselors must renew their certifications annually through the Department of Health

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Connecticut

Resources are available to Connecticut counseling professionals and aspiring counselors through organizations that provide research, continuing education opportunities, and opportunities for peer networking.

Membership requirements and fees vary from program to program, and some organizations are open to both students and professionals. These organizations can help students and professionals working in substance abuse counseling advance their careers, maintain their licenses, and stay current with the latest research.

  • American College Counseling Association ACCA is an organization made up of professionals in counseling, psychology, and social work. Members typically work in institutions of higher education. ACCA is open to both students and professionals.
  • American Counseling Association A nonprofit professional and educational organization dedicated to the counseling profession, ACA is the world's largest association exclusively representing counselors. ACA provides continuing education, conferences, and networking opportunities for members.
  • Association for Humanistic Counseling AHC is a division of ACA, providing membership for counseling professionals seeking to make a difference through empowerment and advocacy. AHC hosts an annual conference for its members.
  • National Employment Counseling Association NECA is another division of ACA. It strives to enhance long-term employability for counselors across the nation. NECA offers continuing education, professional development, employment counseling, and professional networking.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association AMHCA provides advocacy and continuing education to mental health counselors across the country. This organization offers webinars, home studies, and an annual conference for members.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine ASAM provides advocacy and continuing education for professionals in addiction medicine. The organization offers live and online courses, a certification hub, and other resources for members.
  • Connecticut Association for Addiction Professionals CAAP is a nonprofit organization providing advocacy and education for professionals in substance abuse and addiction counseling. CAAP offers courses in accordance with CCB standards and is a chapter of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counsellors.
  • Connecticut Certification Board An independent, nongovernmental organization that offers certification for addiction counselors, clinical supervisors, and prevention professionals, CCB offers specialist certification for substance abuse counselors and facilitates peer networking.
  • Connecticut Counseling Association CCA supports and advocates for counselors by promoting professional identity, providing opportunities for development and networking, and offering resources for professionals. CCA hosts an annual conference for counseling professionals.
  • Connecticut Mental Health Counselors Association CMHCA is a division of the CCA for counselors who provide mental health treatment to clients in clinics, hospitals, and private practices. Professionals and students can join this organization.

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