How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Delaware

Substance abuse counselors help their clients fight addictive behavior, typically focusing on alcohol and drug abuse. These counselors provide an invaluable service to individuals who struggle with addiction and to communities as a whole.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Delaware earned an average annual salary of $44,660 in 2018. Nationally, the BLS projects a 23% growth in this profession from 2016-2026 — much faster than the national average growth rate for all professions.

Substance abuse counselors deal with serious issues and need plenty of training, education, and experience to become licensed professionals. Those considering careers as substance abuse counselors should plan their future carefully to ensure they meet all the necessary requirements. See below for Delaware's educational, practical, and examination requirements for counselors to help guide prospective professionals on their journey to licensure.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Delaware

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Delaware here

Education and Experience Requirements

Before receiving any practical training, aspiring substance abuse counselors need a thorough educational background in counseling or a related field. The following sections detail the education level of counselors, what type of coursework to expect, and the practical experience required for licensure in Delaware.

Academic Requirements

To receive licensure from Delaware's governmental Division of Professional Regulation, substance abuse counselors need a master's degree in counseling or a related field that provides at least 30 graduate credits in counseling.

Most graduate programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in a field related to counseling. Students should consider studying counseling, social work, or psychology for their undergraduate degree.

Some master's programs require applicants to hold undergraduate degrees from accredited universities. The Division of Professional Regulation does not specify whether applicants need a graduate degree from an accredited university. Students should research the best on-campus and online programs to find one that meets their individual needs.

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

The Division of Professional Regulation requires 30 graduate credits of coursework in counseling or a closely related field. Licensure from the Delaware Certification Board (DCB) requires a bachelor's degree in a field relevant to counseling from an accredited college or university.

The DCB accepts associate degrees in counseling-related fields, but only if they include 18 credits focused on drug and alcohol counseling and provide opportunities for a substance abuse internship or practicum.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Universities may require an internship and/or practicum for students in a master's in counseling program. Practicums typically take place at the university and focus on building the foundations of good counseling practice. Internships, on the other hand, take place at independent agencies and allow students to gain hands-on work experience.

Credit requirements vary between programs. Delaware's licensing boards require a specific number of practical hours, some of which may come from practicum or internship experience.

The Exam and Application Process for Delaware Substance Abuse Counselors

Beyond educational requirements, aspiring counselors need to meet other standards to achieve licensure. Delaware offers two paths to licensure: through the Division of Professional Regulation and through the DCB.

The Division of Professional Regulation requires:

  • Official transcripts from a master's in counseling or related field

  • 3,200 hours of experience as a substance abuse counselor, including 1,600 supervised hours and 100 hours of face-to-face meetings with clients

  • Completed online application

  • Criminal background check

  • Proof of any certification by the DCB or another comparable agency

  • Proof of any licensure held in any state, current or expired

  • $236 processing fee

The Delaware Certification Board requires:

  • Official transcripts from a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, or an associate degree in the same

  • 400 hours (two years) of employment as an alcohol and drug counselor, gained in the last seven years

  • 200 hours of supervised work

  • 300 hours of education, including six hours of professional ethics

  • Current employment in a counseling position at the time of application

  • Official verification of completion of the international certification examination for alcohol and other drug abuse counselors, administered by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC)

  • $350 processing fee

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

The Division of Professional Regulation features a reciprocity agreement for out-of-state candidates. Licensed counselors who have remained in good standing for five years in any other jurisdiction of current licensure do not need to present other documentation.

Counselors who have held their license for less than five years in each individual jurisdiction of current licensure must submit copies of the other jurisdictions' licensing laws for the board to review. If the board finds that the licensing laws do not substantially resemble Delaware's, they may ask candidates to provide additional documentation of education and experience.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Licenses from both organizations do expire. Professionals must keep up with state licensing regulations to maintain their status as licensed counselors.

Counselors must renew their licenses every two years, earning at least 40 hours of continuing education during that time from a national substance abuse treatment organization or a local affiliate.

Both the Division of Professional Regulation and the DCB process license renewals online and charge a processing fee. Depending on the date of issue for the Division of Professional Regulation license, the agency may prorate some continuing education hours.

Counselors in Dalware must renew their licenses every two years, earning at least 40 hours of continuing education during that time

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Delaware

Substance abuse counselors and other addiction professionals enjoy access to an array of resources through professional organizations. These organizations offer their members a chance to network, stay current on the best and most recent research in their field, fulfill continuing education requirements, and advance their career goals.

Some groups welcome professionals and students alike and help aspiring substance abuse counselors find work, complete their licensure requirements, and become better practitioners of their craft.

  • Addiction Technology Transfer Center An international, multidisciplinary network with resources for addiction professionals, the ATTC works to heighten awareness, knowledge, and skills of substance abuse counselors. It also fosters national collaboration between practitioners.
  • American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry This organization welcomes professionals, residents, fellows, and students. The AAAP strives to improve evidence-based clinical practice and promote research in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse disorders.
  • American Counseling Association A nonprofit organization dedicated to the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession, the ACA provides educational and professional aid to counselors, including continuing education resources.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association The AMHCA provides advocacy and networking opportunities for counseling professionals, including continuing education opportunities and special events. AMHCA hosts an annual conference for members and provides online training for professionals.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine A professional medical society with over 6,000 members, ASAM helps professionals provide increased access and better treatment options to substance abusers through research, continuing education, and advocacy.
  • Delaware Association for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors DAADAC provides advocacy for addiction professionals and offers supportive services to its members. It also gives continuing education to substance abuse counselors. 
  • International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors The IAAOC assists substance abuse counselors who want to improve the lives of individuals with addictive tendencies. Membership perks include improved professional standing, educational resources, and various award and grant opportunities.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI offers thousands of continuing education programs for professionals across the country. NAMI's Delaware chapter boasts signature programs, an annual educational conference, and many special events for counseling professionals.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers NAATP, a nonprofit organization, provides clinical and operational resources to addiction professionals. This organization also offers law and policy advocacy for its members, and it helps disseminate best practice methods in addiction treatment.
  • Society of Addiction Psychology An organization dedicated to advancing research, training professionals, and improving clinical practice, SoAP membership includes a subscription to Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, a peer-reviewed journal.

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