How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in South Carolina

Individuals struggling with chemical dependency issues often need the help of specially trained substance abuse counselors to overcome their addiction problems. A South Carolina chemical dependency counselor undergoes specialized training to help clients develop healthy behaviors in coping with stress or other addiction triggers.

Counselors may help clients find ongoing support networks, locate employment opportunities, or create plans for a better life. These professionals may also refer clients to clinical mental health therapists for treatment of underlying mental illnesses.

Professional substance abuse counseling can reduce criminal activity. Many states, including South Carolina, use treatment programs to help defendants facing drug-related charges deal with their addictions rather than incarcerating them. About 1,760 substance abuse counselors work in South Carolina, earning a mean salary of $38,410. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment will grow 20% in South Carolina from 2016-2026.

The South Carolina counselor board — South Carolina Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (SCAADAC) — offers chemical dependency counselor certification in the state. Explore how to become a substance abuse counselor in South Carolina by reviewing the educational and certification requirements below.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in South Carolina

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in South Carolina here

Education and Experience Requirements

SCAADC considers education, specialized training, and supervised experience when evaluating chemical dependency counselor applications. After completing the requirements, each counselor must demonstrate mastery of the subject by passing a rigorous exam. Read on for academic, training, and application requirements regarding how to become a substance abuse counselor in South Carolina.

Academic Requirements

South Carolina counseling certification requires a bachelor's degree in human services or a related subject from a regionally or nationally accredited school. Most undergraduate degrees require 120 credits, including general education courses, electives, and degree-specific courses. Many students complete their undergraduate degrees in four years, though individuals attending school part-time may require more time. Learn more about counseling education and careers at this website.

When choosing a school, consider the number of courses devoted to core counseling functions, such as client assessment, counseling techniques, or human development. SCAADAC requires 270 hours of instruction in these core counseling functions. Clinical certification requires a master's degree or a bachelor's degree and additional approved training. The association evaluates transcripts to ensure applicants meet all education requirements.

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

The curriculum should prepare you to carry out critical components of addiction treatment and counseling, including human behavior, symptoms of substance abuse, counseling techniques, and professional ethics, along with state and federal guidelines. Each level-one certification applicant must document 270 hours of training in these areas, while a level-two applicant must obtain 450 hours.

SCAADAC accepts introductory courses in sociology, psychology, anthropology, religion, and health promotion. Other standard courses include group counseling theory, helping relationships, research and evaluation, psychopathology, and diagnostics. While specific course names vary from school to school, students should review course descriptions to ensure their curricula meet the guidelines.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Your degree should offer practical learning opportunities, including practicums or internships. Each student must work one-on-one with clients for at least 150 hours, providing counseling services under the supervision of a certified substance abuse counselor. Many of these experiential learning opportunities take place in outpatient treatment facilities, inpatient recovery hospitals, or nonprofit organizations providing community-based treatment services.

The Exam and Application Process for South Carolina Substance Abuse Counselors

South Carolina counseling certification falls under the administration of SCAADAC, which ensures high standards of education, experience, and professionalism. The state affiliate of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) offers three levels of certification: certified addictions counselor I (CAC I), certified addictions counselor II (CAC II), and certified clinical supervisor (CCS).

In addition to the required bachelor's degree, applicants need relevant work experience. A CAC I applicant needs two years of full-time experience, while a CAC II candidate requires four years of full-time experience. Each CCS applicant must already hold a valid CAC II certification with five years of experience in addiction treatment.

Individuals may take the NAADAC written exam up to three times per year with results valid for four years

SCAADAC reviews application packets, which include official transcripts, documentation of work experience and current job description, training documentation, and a supervisor evaluation. The process also requires a statement of the candidate's treatment philosophy and a written case record proving the applicant served as a primary counselor. SCAADAC charges a $225 application fee, with a discounted rate for members of the organization.

The exam process includes a written exam and an oral exam. Individuals may take the NAADAC written exam up to three times per year with results valid for four years. The oral exam uses the case record submitted with the application and serves as an interview of the applicant. SCAADAC offers oral exams four times each year.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

SCAADAC is a state affiliate of a national certification board and it sets the standards for South Carolina substance abuse counselors. The state offers certification by reciprocity to individuals meeting education, training, and exam requirements. Each applicant must hold a current state addictions certification or license that uses the NAADAC or a similar exam.

Each applicant must provide transcripts to verify their education and training, evidence of work experience and supervised clinical experience, and proof of passing a written and oral exam. If the candidate did not complete an oral exam, they must provide a sample case file and a narrative describing their philosophy for substance abuse counseling and treatment. SCAADAC charges a $175 application fee.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Your South Carolina counseling certification remains valid for two years. Applicants must apply for recertification through SCAADAC. Failure to recertify may lead to additional fees or having to start the certification process over. SCAADAC charges $225 for recertification, with a $100 discount for association members.

South Carolina counseling certification remains valid for two years

Counselors must document 40 hours of continuing education over the prior two years to maintain their certifications. This requirement ensures counselors remain current on the latest research in the field. At least two hours must focus on professional ethics. Counselors earn continuing education credits for attending or presenting workshops or seminars related to core counseling functions. South Carolina allows counselors to earn up to half of the required credits through online or home study.

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in South Carolina

The resources below provide information on prevention efforts in the state, statistical data, and intervention resources that counselors can use to carry out their work.

  • Carolina Community Coalition This project of the University of South Carolina supports public awareness and education campaigns to reduce substance abuse on campus. Members evaluate prevention strategies and develop new efforts to address chemical dependency among college students.
  • Empowering Communities for Healthy Outcomes Project The ECHO Project addresses issues of young adult prescription drug abuse and impaired driving in nine high-need communities. The five-year program received grant funding through a Partnership for Success grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • Faces and Voices of Recovery South Carolina FAVOR offers community-based prevention, advocacy, and education programs, including peer-based recovery support services across the state. It provides training for recovery coaches, peer support specialists, treatment specialists, pastoral counselors, and the public.
  • Fifth Judicial Circuit Drug Court This program offers intensive treatment options for individuals charged with drug-related crimes. The court-supervised program includes a highly structured outpatient drug treatment program. Individuals completing the one-year program may request that charges be expunged, allowing them a fresh start. The veterans court program works exclusively with military veterans facing criminal charges.
  • Gamecock Recovery This program at the University of South Carolina supports college students struggling with addiction and recovery through the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention and Education. The group offers meetings for individuals in recovery, family members, and friends. Also, weekly meditation and self-management and recovery training sessions provide additional support.
  • NAADAC Education and Research Foundation This charitable organization supports professional development activities for substance abuse and chemical dependency counselors. They offer training events, an annual conference, and scholarships. They also advocate for professional standards, better pay and benefits for addiction specialists, and student loan forgiveness programs.
  • Partnership for Drug-Free Kids This national nonprofit works to offer comprehensive support to help families address addiction and substance abuse. Since the mid-1980s, the organization has promoted prevention and public awareness campaigns. They have since expanded to help families locate resources in their local communities through the Parent Helpline and online community.
  • South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services This agency works to provide services to individuals, families, and communities impacted by chemical dependency and substance abuse. It coordinates activities among local agencies to provide prevention, treatment, and recovery services. This department also offers professional development training sessions.
  • South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control The state health department monitors drug abuse, particularly the opioid epidemic, and develops public health education programs to provide awareness and spur prevention efforts. The opioid resource section details South Carolina's efforts to combat overdose deaths, including identifying prescription drug "hotspots," monitoring provider prescribing, and tracking the use of naloxone, an opioid antidote.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration This federal agency serves as a clearinghouse of information on substance abuse, including statistics, updates in laws, and treatment resources. The center offers grants, technical assistance, and training opportunities for communities and practitioners in addition to specific offices related to areas of treatment, prevention, and education.

Explore More Pathways to Becoming a Counselor in South Carolina

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