How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in West Virginia

Working in accordance with the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), the West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals (WVCBAPP) determines licensing guidelines and standards for West Virginia counseling professionals.

Substance abuse counselors in West Virginia can earn credentials in five areas. Along with the basic substance abuse counselor designation, professionals may specialize in advanced substance abuse, supervision, criminal justice, and prevention. While each credential features slightly different requirements, all candidates must complete a IC&RC-mandated number of work experience, education, and practical hours.

This guide explores everything prospective substance abuse counselors need to know about obtaining West Virginia licensure, including educational requirements, work experience guidelines, and the application process. Read on to learn how to become a substance abuse counselor in West Virginia.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in West Virginia

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in West Virginia here

Education and Experience Requirements

All prospective substance abuse counselors in West Virginia must fulfill state-mandated educational requirements. While candidates do not need to hold a college degree, individuals without an educational background in counseling or psychology must acquire relevant knowledge and skills by completing professional training programs, supervised clinical experiences, and practicums.

Academic Requirements

Substance abuse counselors in West Virginia are not required to hold an undergraduate degree. However, a candidate's educational background can impact their experience requirements for certification. The state recommends that individuals pursuing advanced substance abuse counseling positions hold a master's degree in behavioral science with a clinical emphasis.

Candidates must complete 100 hours of field-related education, while clinical supervisors should complete 30 hours of education and training in clinical supervision. Education and training hours fall within five domains: counselor development, professional and ethical standards, program development and quality assurance, assessing counselor competencies and performance, and treatment knowledge. Applicants must complete six hours in each domain.


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

While substance abuse counselors in West Virginia are not required to hold a degree, they must complete at least 300 documented educational contact hours to receive licensure. Candidates may accrue contact hours through formal coursework, individual training, or workplace instruction. One college credit equals 15 contact hours.

At least 70 of the 300 contact hours must address addiction-specific content, and six of those 70 hours must concern ethics in addiction counseling. Students who have previously completed human services or behavioral and health sciences coursework in may be exempt from this requirement.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Individuals with a high school diploma or the equivalent must complete 6,000 hours of supervised work experience and 300 hours of supervised clinical experience. Associate degree-holders must complete 5,000 hours of supervised work experience and a 250-hour supervised practicum. Those with a bachelor's degree spend around two years completing 4,000 hours of supervised work experience and 200 supervised practical experience hours. Candidates with a master's degree must undergo 2,000 hours of supervised work experience and 100 hours of supervised practical experience.

The Exam and Application Process for West Virginia Substance Abuse Counselors

After fulfilling all mandated work and educational requirements and completing a period of supervised practical experience, candidates may contact the WVCBAPP and arrange to take the IC&RC exam. Comprised of 50 questions, the 60-minute written exam tests applicants' knowledge of 12 core function areas, including patient screening, intake, and orientation. The test also contains content related to assessment and treatment planning practices, case management, client education, reports and recordkeeping, and consultation. The IC&RC provides candidates with a variety of study guides, preparatory materials, practice exams, and reading lists to help them succeed.

Candidates should serve individuals and families without discriminating and maintain confidence in their own professional abilities

Candidates for certification must also hold high personal and professional standards, demonstrating a positive attitude toward addiction and addiction treatment. They should serve individuals and families without discriminating and maintain confidence in their own professional abilities. Before receiving state licensure, applicants must sign a contract agreeing to abide by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors's code of ethics.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

West Virginia maintains licensing reciprocity agreements with other IC&RC member states, allowing out-of-state substance abuse counselors to obtain West Virginia licensure.

Candidates must contact the WVCBAPP and their current state board to begin the reciprocity application process. After receiving and verifying the counselor's completed application, the out-of-state board submits the information to the IC&RC. The IC&RC then assesses the application, chooses to grant or deny licensure, and informs the requested member board of their decision.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Substance abuse counselors must renew their licenses every two years. Candidates applying for recertification must complete 40 documented hours of continuing education contact hours through an approved provider by August 30 of their expiry year.

Substance abuse counselors in Washington must renew their licenses every two years

Applicants may fulfill continuing education requirements with credits earned at regionally accredited colleges or universities. Of the 40 continuing education hours, six must relate directly to addictions or chemical and behavioral dependencies. Candidates must also complete six hours of ethics-related coursework. Recertification fees range from $75-$175.

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in West Virginia

Professional organizations like the following groups provide substance abuse counselors with support, education, and opportunities for career growth. Members collaborate with other professionals, participate in advocacy initiatives, and play important roles in substance abuse policy development.

  • American Counseling Association ACA members enjoy access to extensive professional resources, including a knowledge database, continuing education programs, industry publications, and exclusive job boards.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine ASAM unities and supports medical professionals specializing in addiction prevention and treatment. The organization offers practice management information, updates on standards and performance, and care level guidelines, in addition to continuing education programs.
  • Division on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse This division of the West Virginia Division of Health and Human Services' Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities administers substance abuse prevention, control, and treatment programs. The Division disburses federal funds and ensures compliance with state and federal regulations and laws.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers Established in 1978, this advocacy association provides addiction specialists with training programs and continuing education opportunities. Members may attend networking events like an annual conference, access the NAATP news center, and explore job listings around the country.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse A division of the National Institutes of Health, NIDA supports research training, career development, and information exchange between public and private entities. NIDA seeks to detect and improve responses to drug abuse trends while driving innovation in substance abuse treatment and prevention.
  • PublicHealth.org Publichealth.org offers free resources for community and public health professionals. Organized by state and topic, the site's comprehensive database lists open-access journals, research associations, and substance abuse awareness organizations.
  • Rural Health Information Hub Dedicated to improving health in rural regions, RHIhub offers state-specific guides to addressing mental health and substance abuse issues. Professionals can explore funding opportunities, upcoming events, and news updates.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA is a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services that strives to reduce substance abuse through public and professional engagement. Substance abuse specialists can take advantage of SAMHSA's training programs, grant opportunities, and research data.
  • West Virginia Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors The state affiliate of NAADCA, the Association for Addictions Professionals, WVAADC sponsors educational and certification programs. Individuals wondering how to become a substance abuse counselor in West Virginia can explore NAADCA's career center, news updates, publications, and professional development opportunities.
  • West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals WVCBAPP provides substance abuse professionals in West Virginia with comprehensive information on certification, approved providers, and ethical responsibilities.

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