Substance Abuse Counselor Certification Requirements in South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Care (DHEC) sets standards for professionals who provide clinical counseling services in substance abuse facilities. They may qualify by virtue of professional licensure in fields such as social work or counseling. They may also qualify on the basis of accepted substance abuse certifications.

The South Carolina Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors is specifically referenced in state regulation. SCAADAC is a member board of the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). SCAADAC offers two counselor certifications, both at the bachelor's level.

Individuals who qualify for certification at the master's level may earn their certification directly through NAADAC. NAADAC certification is also referenced in state regulation, as are several other organizations, governmental and non-govermental.

Substance abuse facilities may employ other individuals who provide counseling services under supervision. Clinical counseling services may be provided by individuals who are within a set time period of achieving their qualifying certification.

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SCADAAC Certification Overview

SCADAAC offers Certified Addiction Counselor I and II (CAC I and II) certifications. The organization also offers a Certified Clinical Supervisor credential. Certification is based on meeting a very specific set of education, experience, and examination requirements. Certification holders recertify every other year.

Professionals who hold licenses in various disciplines, including psychiatric nursing, can be granted South Carolina CAC certification after meeting a modified set of requirements.

Certified Addiction Counselor I Requirements

The foundation for the Certified Addiction Counselor I (CAC I) credential is a degree at the bachelor's level, earned through an accredited institution. Education is to be in a human services discipline. The individual will need 270 hours of education that relates to core addiction counselor functions. College coursework related to the addiction discipline or counseling discipline may be credited at the rate of 15 hours per semester hour. However, approved non-academic coursework is also creditable.

The individual will need 150 hours of clinical supervision. 4,000 hours of qualifying experience is required. Experience is to have been accrued during the prior five-year time period.

The candidate will take the NAADAC Level I examination.

Certified Addiction Counselor II Requirements

The foundation for the CAC II is also the bachelor's degree. At this level, the counselor will need 450 hours of education that relates to core addiction counselor functions. 8,000 hours of experience are required before a person is eligible for certification at the CAC II level. Qualifying experience is to be accrued during a five-year time period. A CAC II candidate takes the Level II examination developed by NAADAC.

The Certification Application and Examination Process

All application forms can be found in the certification manual. An applicant should request to have academic transcripts sent to SCADAAC. CAC I and CAC II candidates go through a two-step examination process. Written examination precedes oral examination. Registration links can be accessed from the SCADAAC website ( Currently oral examinations are administered four times a year.

Applications may be held open for several years while a substance abuse counselor meets remaining requirements. He or she will need to re-apply if three years elapse. A supervisor evaluation will be among the needed documents.

Other Accepted Credentials

The following South Carolina boards are referenced in DHEC state regulation:

  • Board of Examiners for Professional Counselors and Marital and Family Therapists
  • Board of Examiners in Psychology
  • Board of Medical Examiners
  • Board of Social Work Examiners

NAADAC is an acceptable certifying board. Boards approved by the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium are listed as being acceptable. However, South Carolina does not currently offer IC&RC certification; the only certification offered through the local board is in prevention (

Counselors who work in narcotics treatment programs may legally qualify on the basis of credentials granted by other organizations such as the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders.

Achieving Reciprocity through SCADAAC

SCADAAC can consider granting reciprocity to out-of-state substance abuse counselors who are certified through NAADAC or IC&RC member boards or are credentialed in states that use IC&RC examinations. An applicant will need to demonstrate that the basic requirements have been met, including the requirement for a degree at the bachelor's level. Substance abuse counselors who have not yet passed an oral examination will need to do so.

Licensure as a Professional Counselor

A student who completes a master's degree that includes an emphasis in addiction counseling or counseling may qualify for licensure as a professional counselor after post-degree requirements have been met. A person who intends to be licensed as a professional counselor will want to be aware of state standards at the onset. In South Carolina, the foundation is an appropriately accredited 48 semester hour master's degree program and coursework in specific content areas. Details are available from the Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists and Psycho-Educational Specialists (

The candidate will later need to complete a supervised work experience that meets the standards set by the South Carolina Board. Professional counseling licensure is dependent on passing an examination offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

Certification as a Master Addiction Counselor

NAADAC offers a Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) certification ( A professional must first hold an addiction counselor certification or qualifying professional license. A candidate must have fully 500 contact hours of substance use/ addiction education and training.

Additional Information

Information about South Carolina substance abuse counselor certification is available from the South Carolina Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors ( SCADAAC can be reached by telephone at 803-540-7527.

Information about regulations for substance dependence facilities is available from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (

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