How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in New Jersey

Substance abuse counselors guide alcohol- and drug-addicted clients through the process of recovery, often working with impacted family members to facilitate healing. The Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) estimates that only 11.2% of substance-addicted people in the United States receive the help they need, making substance abuse counseling a crucial and rewarding career.

Aspiring substance abuse counselors in New Jersey must first obtain either certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC) certification or licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor (LCADC) licensure. LCADC-licensed counselors can operate independently, while CADC-certified counselors must work under supervision.

Read on to continue learning how to become a counselor in New Jersey.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in New Jersey

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in New Jersey here

Education and Experience Requirements

Substance abuse counselors in New Jersey must meet certain educational requirements, which vary depending on whether the applicant wishes to hold CADC or LCADC licensure. Counseling candidates need to complete extensive internship requirements as well. Students who wish to pursue careers as substance abuse counselors in New Jersey should consider the following academic and fieldwork requirements.

Academic Requirements

There are a few educational pathways for obtaining CADC certification. Students who hold a regionally accredited associate or bachelor's degree related to alcohol and drug counseling may qualify for certification. Those with a high school diploma or equivalent may take 270 hours of coursework approved by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) or the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).

For LCADC licensure, candidates must hold a master's degree or higher in counseling or a related field and meet the above qualifications for CADC certification.


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

For both the CADC and LCADC licenses, students must complete 270 hours of coursework with 54 credits each in assessment, counseling, case management, client education, and professional responsibility. Sample courses may include:

Crisis Intervention

Students learn to identify trauma, understand psychological reactions to shock, and manage crisis situations.

Addiction Recovery

Students learn to define core terms — such as addiction, relapse, and sobriety — and use techniques for developing client-counselor rapport, encouraging positive change, and setting realistic recovery-related goals.

To obtain LCADC licensure, students must take graduate-level coursework in counseling theory and practice, human growth and development, assessment of individuals, and research and evaluation. Both CADC and LCADC licenses require applicants to pass IC&RC's written and oral exam.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Both CADC and LCADC certifications require students to complete 3,000 supervised internship hours working with addiction-related clients. The hours may be paid or voluntary, and they take 2-5 years to complete when the work is consistent.

Students must also complete an additional 300 hours of supervised practical training distributed among the 12 competencies of addiction counseling: screening, intake, orientation, assessment, treatment planning, counseling, case management, crisis intervention, client education, referral, recordkeeping, and consultation with other professionals.

The Exam and Application Process for New Jersey Substance Abuse Counselors

The New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs, State Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiners' Alcohol and Drug Counselor Committee serves as the New Jersey counselor board. It regulates licensure of substance abuse counselors in New Jersey. The Addiction Professionals Certification Board of New Jersey (APCBNJ) administers examinations as required by the IC&RC and reviews applicant coursework to ensure that courses meet state guidelines.

To obtain CADC or LCADC licensure, applicants who have completed the required coursework, internship, and supervised practicum hours must:

  1. Attend 30 self-help group meetings, including five meetings each of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Alanon.

  2. Apply to take exams and pay the $216 application fee.

  3. Complete the written and oral examinations. The written exam covers the 12 competencies of addiction counseling and the oral exam covers pre-specified questions related to the 12 competencies.

  4. Submit a notarized application, including:

    • Disclosure of arrests and/or criminal background
    • Authorization form for criminal background check
    • Degree verification form (for LCADC applicants)
    • Documentation of self-help group attendance
    • Documentation of supervised work experience
    • Supervisor evaluation form
    • $75 application fee

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

New Jersey does not automatically recognize IC&RC reciprocity for CADC and LCADC licensure. APCBNJ reviews coursework, internship hours, and other requirements completed in other states to determine whether candidates qualify for CADC or LCADC licensure. While transcripts are in review, applicants should complete the state application and submit relevant fees. Substance abuse counselors who wish to practice in New Jersey must take the written and oral exams.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

In New Jersey, CADC and LCADC licenses must be renewed every two years. Counselors seeking renewal should:

  • Complete 40-60 hours of continuing education (40 for the LCADC and 60 for the CADC) over the course of two years, including three hours of cultural competence training
  • Submit an application for recertification at least 60 days before the expiration date
  • Pay the recertification fee of $51.50

Counselors who are renewing their licenses for the first time should complete six hours of continuing education on the topic of legal standards.

In New Jersey, CADC and LCADC licenses must be renewed every two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in New Jersey

Substance abuse counselors in New Jersey enjoy access to professional organizations both in New Jersey and at the national level. By joining professional organizations, students and counseling professionals can collaborate on issues of advocacy, participate in continuing education, and connect with peers through conferences and local events.

  • Addiction Professionals Certification Board of New Jersey APCBNJ collaborates with the IC&RC to test, certify, and educate substance abuse counselors in New Jersey. APCBNJ provides ethical standards, lists of approved providers, and continuing education for CADC and LCADC counselors.
  • The American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence In addition to the organization's annual conference, AATOD offers webinars and professional development opportunities on topics like the prevalence of prescription use, methadone treatment in the criminal justice system, and healthcare reform for opioid treatment providers.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine ASAM offers networking through its local chapters, political advocacy and training, a career center for job postings, and educational resources such as webinars and in-person events.
  • The Association for Addiction Professionals New Jersey's NAADAC chapter offers a wealth of resources for substance abuse counselors, including an active job board, professional development opportunities, webinars, industry news and advocacy, and funding opportunities.
  • Mental Health Association in New Jersey An affiliate of Mental Health America, MHANJ advocates for mental health awareness and supports counselors by providing education, training, advocacy, and other resources.
  • National Council for Behavioral Health The National Council is a nonprofit organization that provides training and consultations to mental health professionals and advocates for mental health policy. It offers an annual conference, a job board, and professional development opportunities.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Part of the National Institutes of Health, NIAAA conducts and supports research related to alcohol addiction. It reports its findings to lawmakers and works to remove stigmas associated with addiction.
  • Rutgers Center for Alcohol Studies, Education, and Training Rutgers provides a wide range of state-approved continuing education opportunities through the center's seminar series and annual Summer School of Addiction Conference.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Known for its national helplines, SAMSHA provides training programs for counseling professionals and guidelines for government advisory boards, covering topics like drug testing and substance abuse prevention.

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