How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Oregon

A 2017 Oregon Substance Use Disorder Research Committee report found that approximately one in 10 Oregonians abuse drugs and alcohol and two-thirds of the state's residents know someone who does. Consequently, a high demand for substance abuse counselors exists in Oregon.

Oregon substance abuse counselors may practice with a license in a health or mental health field or certification by the Mental Health & Addiction Certification Board of Oregon (MHACBO). Licensed counselors may treat substance abuse with licenses issued by one of several Oregon boards, such as the Board of Licensed Social Workers, the Board of Licensed Professional Counselors & Therapists, the Board of Nursing, or the Board of Psychologist Examiners.

Continue reading for information about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Oregon. You can also browse resources for pursuing an Oregon counseling career. This page includes examination and application procedures for aspiring Oregon substance abuse counselors.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Oregon

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Oregon here

Education and Experience Requirements

Licensure candidates' education and experience vary by field of study — whether social work, counseling, nursing, or psychology — and differ according to the requirements of the board to which the applicant applies.

The sections below describe the requirements and processes for substance abuse counseling certification in Oregon.

Academic Requirements

Oregon certifies substance abuse counselors at three levels: Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC) I, II, or III. The CADC I level does not require a degree. Students can meet requirements with coursework, work experience, and an examination. CADC II candidates need a bachelor's degree or equivalent, and CADC III requires a master's degree or higher.

The most direct educational path to becoming a substance abuse counselor consists of earning an associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in counseling from a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs or Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

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

At the CADC I level, certification requires 150 hours of coursework in counseling, pharmacology, HIV/AIDS risk assessment and reduction, ethics, and clinical evaluation. CADC II applicants need a bachelor's degree in counseling or an associate degree plus specialized training, including 300 hours in the above course topics, along with counseling diverse populations. Those seeking CADC III certification need a master's degree or higher in counseling that includes 300 hours of CADC II courses, plus theories of addiction and diagnosing multiple disorders. The state requires the proof of competency through supervised experience hours.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Oregon's certification process requires supervised experience hours in addiction counselor competencies according to proficiency level: 1,000 hours for CADC I, 4,000 hours for CADC II, and 6,000 hours for CADC III. Supervisors must meet the state's statutory qualification standards for addiction counselor clinical supervision.

The Exam and Application Process for Oregon Substance Abuse Counselors


Candidates apply for different types of licenses according to the requirements of the Oregon state licensure boards, which include:

The requirements generally include degree and documented clinical hours, academic transcripts, background check, application, license and exam fees, and applicable exam(s) score(s).


MHACBO lists the following certification steps for aspiring substance abuse counselors:

  1. Submit an application attesting to degree (if earned), education, experience, and competencies, along with testing application.

  2. Pay the fee(s) pursuant to certification level.

  3. Provide a letter verifying sobriety time, if applicable (two years for CADC I and three years for CADC II and III).

  4. Submit a signed and dated code of conduct.

  5. Send score(s) from appropriate level of examination(s): all levels take an exam administered by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), as follows:

    • CADC I takes the National Certified Addiction Counselor I exam
    • CADC II takes the National Certified Addiction Counselor II exam
    • CADC III takes the Master Addiction Counselor exam

    Candidates for CADC II and III certification also take the Jurisprudence Ethics Exam.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Substance abuse counselors with licenses and certifications from other states, who move to and wish to become certified in Oregon, complete a reciprocity form. MHACBO accepts NAADAC or International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium National Psychometric Exam scores. Other state exams may also suffice if they meet Oregon's criteria.

For out-of-state license holders seeking to obtain the equivalent license in Oregon, the Board of Licensed Professional Counselor and Therapists grants them via reciprocity, but the Board of Licensed Social Workers does not. The Boards of Nursing and Psychologist Examiners accept applications by endorsement.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

License expiration and renewal requirements depend on the type of license held. Substance abuse counselor certification expires every two years and requires 40 hours of continuing education (CE), including six hours of ethics, at least 20 hours of alcohol and drug counseling education, and no more than 20 hours of counseling education.

Substance abuse counselor certification expires every two years and requires 40 hours of continuing education

CE hours must be completed with courses from an accredited or approved organization, including those listed in the next section. To recertify, counselors submit a renewal application at least two weeks before the expiration date and pay a $175 renewal fee.

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Oregon

The list below contains resources useful to substance abuse counselors and features both Oregon-specific and nationally based agencies and organizations. Whether you're considering a career in substance abuse counseling, already a student, or about to apply for a license or certification, use these links to find CE courses, networking opportunities, statistics and data, and information about recent research.

  • Addiction Counselor CE This site offers online CE content approved by NAADAC and MHACBO for substance abuse counselors, social workers, and addiction therapists. Topics include disorders in the justice system, ethics and culture in mental health care, and withdrawal detoxification.
  • Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission A state agency formed to improve substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services for Oregonians. ADPC's website features information on different kinds of drugs and their effects, the progress of a long-term alcohol and drug abuse treatment strategic plan, and its public meetings and regional town halls schedule.
  • American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry AAAP members include students, faculty, and professionals across the country committed to improving addiction treatment with the most up-to-date clinical practices, research, and technology. Benefits include mentorships, networking opportunities, and educational materials.
  • APA Div. 28 This national advocacy, clinical, and research organization focuses on psychopharmacology and substance abuse for all experience levels. Resources include a listserv, newsletter, early career advice, and networking opportunities.
  • Association of Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselors of Oregon The state affiliate of NAADAC unites Oregon counselors and advocates for licensure and certification standards. AADACO offers free and reduced-rate CE webinars and publications, networking events, and an online career center.
  • Chemical Dependency Training Consortium of the Northwest This organization offers low-cost in-person training to Oregon and Washington substance abuse and addiction professionals. The NAADAC and MHACBO accept the trainings for CE credit.
  • Mental Health & Addiction Certification Board of Oregon In addition to certifying substance abuse counselors, MHACBO lists statewide CE opportunities. Offered online and in person, the courses and conferences cover a range of topics, including relapse prevention, returning military addiction, and marijuana issues.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse This agency advances addiction science through clinical research and career development. NIDA offers continuing education resources for professionals on such topics as the opioid crisis and how addiction changes the brain.
  • Oregon Health Authority Addictions and Mental Health Services This resource is a division of state government that provides tools and resources for addiction and mental health services providers, including links to the certification and licensing boards, data and reports, applicable laws and rules, and reporting templates.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration This federal government agency's mission centers on improving behavioral public health to reduce nationwide mental illness and substance abuse. SAMHSA provides practitioner training, grant funding, and publications covering research, data, and news.

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