Substance Abuse Counselor Certification in Hawaii

Hawaii substance abuse counselors are certified by the Hawaii Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division. The Division is a governmental entity and also a member of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). Training is based on the 12 core functions identified by the IC&RC. A prospective Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC) must pursue substance abuse education, complete a period of supervised work experience, and pass a national examination.

A person who begins his or her career in Hawaii will typically initiate the application process long before requirements have been met. Applications are often open for several years as candidates complete their supervised experience and meet testing requirements.

Hawaii has a shortened process for professionals who are already licensed as healthcare providers, but notes that the resulting credential is not reciprocal through the IC&RC.

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Becoming a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor

The Division certifies substance abuse counselors with education at the high school/ GED level or above. The supervised experience period is shortened by academic degrees.

The prospective substance abuse counselor will need 270 hours of discipline-specific education. The Addiction Technology Transfer Network Center lists just one Hawaii certificate program ( However, education does not have to be completed through a single program or provider. Up to 135 hours can be credited for distance education. The student will need some instruction in professional ethics, confidentiality, HIV/ AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The Division does not place limits on hours for training that relates specifically to substance abuse but can credit no more than 45 hours in any of the following area: multicultural competency, counseling theories and techniques, group counseling or family counseling.

Without a degree, the experience requirement is 6,000 hours, the equivalent of three years. The amount that the requirement can be reduced by education will depend on the level of the degree. The Division notes that 4,000 is the maximum reduction; this will require at least a master’s degree. All candidates will put in at least 2,000 hours before they qualify for certification.

The trainee will need at least 400 face-to-face clinical hours. There must be at least 20 in each of the required domains. The supervisor may be certified in Hawaii or certified by another IC&RC Board at the reciprocal level. The Division has stated that other licensed professionals may verify work experience hours but not training hours.

Prospective CSACs test only after they have met other requirements and their applications have been approved. The required examination is the Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor (ADC) exam. This is the one that is used most commonly around the nation. Under current policy, the candidate will be registered for the examination upon approval but will need to schedule on the desired date. The Division notes that due to Hawaii’s rural location, it is necessary to call to schedule; candidates cannot expect to find a list of locations on the vendor site.

The Division has suggested readings that may be useful test resources. The document is included on the same page as the application materials.

The Application Process

Application materials can be downloaded from the Division website ( The current process involves submitting an application and then waiting for confirmation before sending additional documentation. Applicants are advised to read the FAQ before making application.

The supervisor(s) will document work experience and practical experience.

There is a $25 application fee and $115 examination fee.

Substance Abuse Counselor Certification for Licensed Professionals

The following healthcare providers can achieve substance abuse counseling after just 180 hours of education and 1,000 hours of supervised experience:

  • Clinical social workers
  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Mental health counselors
  • Advanced practice nurses

No more than 90 hours can be credited for counseling coursework that lacks a substance abuse focus. The individual will need education in specific areas such as confidentiality.

The Division notes that by earning the credential, professionals can make themselves eligible for insurance reimbursement and also signal to the public their proficiency. However, those that desire a credential that will be accepted as reciprocal by other IC&RC boards will need to pursue the standard substance abuse counseling certification.

Physicians and psychologists can also earn non-reciprocal substance abuse counseling certification. Their requirement for substance abuse specific coursework is just 50 hours. Their experience requirement is on a par with what is required of master’s level licensed healthcare providers: 1,000 hours.


Addiction counselors certified at the reciprocal level by other IC&RC boards can contact their board about reciprocity to Hawaii. Those who hold other licenses or certifications are directed to contact the Hawaii Division; they will need to demonstrate requirements on a par with other applicants.

Advancement Opportunities/ Higher Level Credentials

Opportunities for advancement include providing clinical supervision and working with clients and patients who have co-occurring disorders.

A professional who holds a CSAC or other qualifying certification can eventually be credentialed as a Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS). The Division will look for at least 10,000 hours of total experience; the professional must meet minimum hours in both counseling and supervision. A qualifying certification may be credited as 6,000 hours of counseling experience. The candidate will take the IC&RC Clinical Supervisor Examination.

Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional-Diplomate (CCDP-D) is a master’s level certification. The candidate will need a master’s degree in behavioral science or co-occurring disorders. The professional will need some educational hours that focus on the interrelationships between substance abuse and mental illness. The Division will look for 4,000 total experience hours with 2,000 in co-occurring disorders. The candidate will take the IC&RC Co-Occurring Disorders Professional Examination.

Certification Renewal Requirements

Hawaii substance abuse certification is renewed biennially. Continuing education is mandatory. Requirements will vary by certification type.

Additional Information

Information is available from the Hawaii Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division ( The Certification Office can be reached by telephone at 808- 692-7518.

The Hawaii Association of Addiction and Drug Abuse Counselors is an additional professional resource (

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