How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Hawaii

Hawaii offers a simple and straightforward path to substance abuse counselor certification. Under the State Department of Health, Hawaii awards certification to qualifying counselors and program administrators through the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (ADAD). Beyond becoming a certified substance abuse counselor (CSAC) in Hawaii, students can pursue specialty credentials in prevention, clinical supervision, and criminal justice addictions through the ADAD.

The state also belongs to the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), which administers the national exam required for CSAC certification and offers reciprocity to Hawaii counselors inbound from one of IC&RC's other 41 member states. CSAC candidates must pursue an education in substance abuse counseling, and meet supervised experience and exam requirements to qualify for certification. 

As the nation's second-highest paying state for substance abuse social workers, Hawaii employs just 400 professionals in the field and pays a generous annual salary of more than $72,000. Read on to learn more about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Hawaii.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Hawaii

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Hawaii here

Education and Experience Requirements

With minimal education required to begin the application process, an aspiring substance abuse counselor in Hawaii can earn a degree or field experience over several years on their path to certification. Each candidate must hold a high school diploma or GED (though they require fewer field hours with a college degree), complete 2,000-6,000 field hours, and undergo 400 hours of supervised training to earn certification as a CSAC in Hawaii.

Academic Requirements

A student can apply to become a CSAC in Hawaii with a high school diploma or GED. However, an applicant who holds a college degree can reduce the field experience requirement, relative to their level of education.

An applicant with a high school diploma must complete 6,000 hours of field experience. Students can reduce the requirement by 2,000 hours for each associate, bachelor's, and master's degree earned. However, a candidate may only waive a maximum of 4,000 hours.

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

The Exam and Application Process for Hawaii Substance Abuse Counselors

Each student applying for certification as a substance abuse counselor in Hawaii must submit an application, including official academic transcripts and work experience verification, and pass the alcohol and drug counselor (ADC) exam administered by IC&RC. A candidate must also read and sign a code of ethics statement. ADAD requires a processing fee of $25 to be submitted online or by mail with the completed application.

Hawaii considers awarding substance abuse counselor certification reciprocal to a candidate's state of practice, based on their education and experience qualifications

The three-hour ADC exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and costs $115. ADAD allows students three attempts to pass the ADC exam; those who do not achieve a passing score on their third attempt must obtain 480 additional hours of supervised field experience and may require additional coursework to register again.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

ADAD recognizes out-of-state substance abuse counselors with certification through a member-board of IC&RC. Hawaii considers awarding substance abuse counselor certification reciprocal to a candidate's state of practice, based on their education and experience qualifications. Practitioners should contact ADAD directly for reciprocity inquiries.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

A CSAC in Hawaii must complete 40 hours of continuing education, which includes at least 20 face-to-face hours and may include up to 20 distance education hours in ADAD-approved coursework. Requirements include six hours in counselor ethics that must be completed face to face. ADAD renews certification for qualifying CSACs every two years.

ADAD renews certification for qualifying CSACs every two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Hawaii

Aspiring professionals curious about becoming substance abuse counselors in Hawaii can benefit from researching key industry resources and organizations. While the Hawaii Department of Health offers guidance for students on the path to earning substance abuse counseling certification, other state resources can provide internship opportunities, networking tips, and additional career insight for budding professionals.

  • Aloha House Encompassing the merger of three family services agencies in Maui in 2008, Aloha House now provides treatment and recovery services to individuals struggling with addiction. The nonprofit regularly posts employment opportunities for substance abuse and mental health service providers looking to assist children and adults.
  • Behavioral Health Hawaii A famous provider of substance abuse counseling services on Maui, BHH offers intensive outpatient services and field education through workshops and family services. 
  • Big Island Substance Abuse Council Perhaps the state's most prominent community-oriented treatment and recovery center, BISAC hosts events, including the annual Summer Jam and a Health and Wellness Recovery Day event. Counselors can browse employment and volunteer opportunities through the website.
  • Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii One of several organizations under the Coalition umbrella, the Hawaii Pacific Center for Excellence provides aspiring prevention specialists with information on training and certification. Programs include a variety of opportunities for aspiring youth, family, and community counselors.
  • Hawaii Community College As the largest and most prestigious college system on the islands, Hawaii Community College at UH prepares students for CSAC or certified drug prevention specialist credentials in the local workforce.
  • Hawaii Counseling and Education Center Hawaii Counseling and Education Center offers supplemental training for aspiring mental health professionals through webinars and coaching services. Its co-founders also offer inspirational books and videos.
  • HumanServicesEDU.org HumanServicesEDU provides state-specific certification, career, and salary information for aspiring substance abuse counselors and other mental health occupations in Hawaii. Here, students can explore credentialing requirements and find education programs tailored to their area of counseling expertise.
  • Pacific Academy of the Healing Arts Focused on providing educational programs specific to addiction treatment and recovery occupations, PAHA offers courses and continuing education to lead to certification in substance abuse counseling, nursing, and advanced practice nursing in related specializations. 
  • State of Hawaii, Department of Health As Hawaii's credentialing organization for certified substance abuse counselors, the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division also provides surveys and reports of current field initiatives in the state, along with workforce development opportunities and a training calendar for certification candidates.

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