Substance Abuse Counselor Certification in Florida

Florida's substance abuse facilities are licensed by the Substance Abuse Program Office of the Florida Department of Children and Families. Florida's substance abuse counselors, though, are certified by a third party organization.

Florida law takes into account academic background. Just holding a certification isn’t enough to qualify a person as a "qualified professional" at a Florida substance abuse facility. Unless a person is qualified by virtue of a professional license (for example, nurse practitioner), he or she will need both a bachelor's degree and a recognized certification ( Florida employers sometimes do advertise positions by minimum degree level – e.g. baccalaureate – even if they will consider applicants who have not yet met certification requirements.

Some substance abuse counseling positions are master’s level. The Florida Certification Board offers a master’s level certification.

Out-of-state certificate holders may be employed as qualified professionals for a limited time period while meeting Florida requirements.

There have been recent changes in certification availability and requirements.

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Earning Credentials through the Florida Certification Board

The Florida Certification Board is a member of the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC & RC). It is possible to earn reciprocal credentials. However, the Florida credentialing process includes some state-specific elements.

The Certification Board grants multiple substance abuse credentials. There are two stages to the certification process. The candidate will demonstrate eligibility through education and experience. The Certification Board sets requirements for both academic level and addiction-specific training. Specific training and supervision hours will vary by level. The candidate can expect to demonstrate minimum hours in a number of different categories.

Certified Addiction Counselor Requirements

The Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) can be attained with any level of education from the high school/ GED level on, though a person will earn the credential a little sooner if he or she has an academic degree at the associate level or higher. The Certification Board considers not only the level of the degree but the relevance to addiction counseling. A person with a non-related degree at the baccalaureate level or higher will complete 5,000 hours of supervised practice. A person with a related baccalaureate degree will complete 4,000 hours. The requirement for content-specific training is the same in each instance: 270 hours. The worker will complete 300 hours of on-the-job training. Ultimately, the candidate will take the IC&RC Alcohol and other Drug Counselor (ADC) examination.

Certified Addiction Professional Requirements

The Certified Addiction Professional (CAP) certification is designed specifically for professionals who have bachelor's degrees in related fields. The Certification Board notes that the CAP credential does make a substance abuse worker a "qualified professional" under Florida law.

The candidate guide includes a list of bachelor’s degrees that can be considered related; there are more than 25. Among the options are psychology, health education, gerontology, music therapy, drama/ expressive arts therapy, and human services. Baccalaureate degree holders who believe their degree is related but do not see it on the list may request equivalency evaluation.

For a limited time period, the Florida Board is considering requests for certification by waiver. Applicants who do not have related degrees have until June 30, 2017. Waiver applicants will need to justify why they should be granted waiver. The justification request will typically include detailed information about education and training as well as a resume and letter of reference that describes relevant duties.

The CAC experience requirement is 6,000 hours. The Certification Board requires 350 hours each of addiction specific training and clinical supervision.

The examination is the Florida Certified Addiction Professional Exam. The applicant may opt to take the IC & RC ADC examination as well; by following this path, he or she can earn a reciprocal credential.

Master’s Level Addiction Professional Requirements

The MCAP certification is designed for professionals who hold related degrees at the master's level. There is a separate list of qualifying degrees – the Certification Board notes that it is narrower. The Board can accept a variety of graduate counseling degrees. The degree may be in addiction studies/ addiction counseling or may be in another branch such as marriage and family counseling or even pastoral counseling. Art therapy, music therapy, and expressive arts therapy are considered to be psychology degrees and as such are creditable. Social work is creditable. An APRN who holds psychiatric designation may also apply for MCAP. Again, a person who believes that his or her degree is creditable as “related” may request equivalency review.

The individual will need 350 hours of training in Board-identified areas. At this level, 16 hours of training is to be in supervision. Fully 80 hours are to be in the areas of treatment knowledge and understanding addictions.

The prospective MCAP will accrue 4,000 hours of experience. This is 2,000 hours (or approximately one year) less than what is required at the CAP level. The Certification Board requires just 200 hours of supervision. At least 20 supervision hours, however, must be devoted to each identified domain.

A qualified professional can apply for MCAP directly or upgrade from CAP. The process will vary, depending on the date/ circumstances under which the CAP was earned.

A MCAP candidate will take the Florida Certified Master’s Level Addiction Professional Exam. If the candidate wants a reciprocal certification, he or she will also take the IC&RC ADC Exam. However, Florida does not require the national exam.

The Certification Application Process

Candidate guides include forms as well as detailed directions; the applicant will click on the desired certification to get the necessary paperwork ( A prospective certification holder should be prepared to submit three references. He or she must have a clean background for at least the prior three years. Some crimes will continue to disqualify a person beyond the three-year time period.

An applicant will pay a certification fee upon application and additional fees after his or her candidacy is approved. (A CAP or MCAP applicant who also seeks the reciprocal IC&RC credential will note this on his or her application.)

Certification must be maintained through continuing education.

Additional Information

The Florida Certification Board can provide detailed information about substance abuse certification requirements. The office can be reached at 850-222-6314. Applicants may contact certification specialists directly.

Requirements for substance abuse services are found in Chapter 397 of Florida Statute.

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