Like many other states, Utah has suffered from the opioid epidemic: Between 2007 and 2016, the number of deaths from heroin overdoses tripled to about 166 deaths per year. An incredible 80% of these victims started taking substances with prescriptions from their doctors, only to get addicted and turn to street drugs. This sharp rise in addiction-related deaths means that the Beehive State has been in the top 10 worst states for the opioid overdose fatalities for the past 10 years.
While the statistics remain troubling, the state government continues to look for legislative solutions to the problem. Furthermore, compassionate Utahns can dedicate themselves to becoming substance abuse counselors to help their struggling neighbors. This page outlines how prospective students can become a substance abuse counselor in Utah.
Counseling License and Career Requirements in UtahExplore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Utah here
Education and Experience Requirements
Utah offers six substance use disorder counselor (SUDC) licenses: certified SUDC intern, certified SUDC, licensed SUDC, certified advanced SUDC intern, certified advanced SUDC, and licensed advanced SUDC. Each of these practice levels requires candidates to complete different types of education and practicums, as outlined below.
The most basic substance abuse counselor licenses — certified SUDC intern, certified SUDC, and licensed SUDC — require candidates to hold associate degrees in related areas. The advanced licenses require candidates to hold bachelor's degrees or higher in substance abuse treatment, counseling, psychology, or related areas. Students should ensure they select schools that earn accreditation from organizations approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). For example, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is a CHEA-approved organization that provides regional accreditation for institutions in Utah. Candidates should attend programs that also include the proper courses and internships.
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
All qualifying degrees should feature coursework in psychology and human growth and development, while human development classes must cover psychological development throughout the lifespan. Associate degrees should include 200 clock hours of substance abuse treatment classes, and bachelor's degrees and higher must include 300 clock hours on this topic.
Qualifying associate degrees should include at least 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours, which prepares candidates to apply for the lower-level licenses. Bachelor's degrees can ready candidates to apply for advanced credentials, and should have 120 semester hours or equivalent quarter hours.
Practicum and Supervised Practice
Associate programs should include at least 200 hours of practicum experience, and bachelor's degrees must include 350 hours of hands-on experience. Once learners gain their internships licenses, they must complete supervised postgraduate experience. Licensed SUDC candidates need 2,000 hours, while licensed advanced SUDC applicants must hold 4,000 hours.
The Exam and Application Process for Utah Substance Abuse Counselors
The Utah Department of Commerce's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) oversees substance abuse counselor licenses in the state. The DOPL offers candidates several paths to licensure depending on their level of education. Certified SUDC intern candidates can earn their licenses by completing the educational requirements and submitting applications. These interns then earn their certified SUDC credentials when they pass the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) National Certification exams. They can choose between the following tests: level I, level II, or MAC. Certified SUDCs then become licensed SUDCs when they complete 2,000 hours of supervised substance abuse treatment experience.
Professionals at all levels must agree to abide by the NAADAC code of ethics and may lose their licenses if they break this code
Certified advanced SUDC intern applicants should meet the relevant education requirements and submit completed applications to the DOPL. They then must pass either the level II or MAC exam through the NAADAC to earn their certified advanced SUDC licenses. Finally, certified advanced SUDCs become licensed advanced SUDCs when they complete 4,000 hours of supervised experience. If candidates work up from licensed SUDC, they can count the 2,000 hours from that license toward the advanced credentials. Professionals at all levels must agree to abide by the NAADAC code of ethics and may lose their licenses if they break this code.
Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates
Utah accepts licensed substance abuse counselors from other states, so long as they meet the same requirements that in-state applicants attain. Licensed SUDC and licensed advanced SUDC applicants from other jurisdictions should submit:
- License verification from the previous state
- Proof of 4,000 hours of experience
- Passing scores from NAADAC exams
- Official transcripts that prove they meet the educational requirements
The DOPL will only consider reciprocity candidates with at least 4,000 hours of experience, even at the licensed SUDC level. This experience can include supervised and unsupervised hours. Applicants must meet the same education requirements as their in-state counterparts.
Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements
Substance abuse counselor licenses expire every two years. During each renewal cycle, professionals should earn at least 40 credit hours of continuing education. Each credit should include at least 50 minutes of formal instruction during a conference, seminar, or similarly structured class. Candidates who teach substance abuse classes may count this experience for up to 10 credit hours per renewal period. Only 15 credits per two-year cycle can come from online courses. Renewal candidates should also submit applications on which they attest to their continuing education credits. Professionals who let their licenses expire need to retake the national exams to reinstate their credentials.
Substance abuse counselor licenses in Utah expire every two years
Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Utah
Utah counseling professionals and students use a variety of resources to expand their networks, find jobs, understand the latest industry research, and earn continuing education credits. The following list includes professional organizations, industry publications, and job boards that can help Utah substance abuse counselors and learners:
- American Counseling Association This nationwide counseling organization helps members advance their practices through continuing education, open job boards, timely publications, and online forums. Members also gain access to career services such as resume reviews and mock interviews.
- Association of Utah Substance Abuse Professionals The AUSAP is the local division of the NAADAC. Members can attend networking events in Utah, buy professional insurance, earn scholarships, and access training through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
- DOPL This division is home to the Utah counselor board that oversees SUDC licensing in the Beehive State. Students and professionals can access online applications, learn more about licensing requirements, and find information on board meetings.
- iHire Mental Health This job board displays all types of jobs in the mental health sector, including for substance abuse counselors. Job seekers can also upload their resumes to help employers find them.
- Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment Subscribers gain access to the latest published research in substance abuse. This information can help them tailor their practices based on the best evidence available.
- NAADAC Certified substance abuse counselor applicants must pass NAADAC exams in Utah. The organization's website includes information on the tests, study materials, and opportunities for continuing education credits.
- Utah Department of Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health The state's DHS website includes information for citizens looking for mental health treatment, including for substance abuse. Students and professionals use the site to understand the resources available to clients and find updates statistics on the state of substance abuse in Utah.
- Utah Fall Conference Candidates attend this annual conferences to earn continuing education credits, network with fellow professionals, and speak with exhibitors. Students can also earn scholarships through the conference.
- Utah Hospital Association Some substance abuse counselors in Utah work in hospitals and other organizations that the UHA represents. Professionals can access a large job board and regulation information on this site.
- Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness Professionals and students can join this organization to further advocate for people with substance addictions. Members attend local events, advocate for helpful laws, and participate in recovery initiatives.