Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in Wisconsin

Wisconsin regulates substance abuse counselors and facilities. In order to be qualified to provide substance abuse counseling services at a certified clinic, a person must 1) hold one of three state-issued substance abuse counselor credentials or 2) hold another qualifying license and specialty certification in substance abuse counseling.

Substance Abuse Counselor-in-Training (SAC-IT) is the entry-level credential. Ultimately, the CIT will qualify as a Substance Abuse Counselor (SAC) or Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC). An academic degree is not mandatory at the SAC level, but the individual must have considerable education and training that is related to the practice of substance abuse counseling. A professional at the CSAC level must have a behavioral science degree at at least the associated level.

Substance abuse counselors and even clinical substance abuse counselors continue to work under clinical supervision ( Clinical substance abuse counselors can ultimately achieve Clinical Supervisor (CS) status. According to the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (2012), Wisconsin issues credentials corresponding to the highest three categories of the SAMHSA career ladder; CS represents the independent level.

Other qualifying licenses (e.g. professional counseling) require higher levels of academic education and provide a broader scope of practice.

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Substance Abuse Counselor/ CIT Requirements

The foundation for practice at any level is a high school diploma, GED, or HSED. A Substance Abuse Counselor in Training will need to have 100 hours of education in the transdisciplinary foundations. Education must meet minimum standards in five identified content areas ( The Department will look for verification from an approved program.

The individual will not be granted CIT status until he or she has at least an offer of employment. The Department requires an examination of jurisprudence, ethics, and professional boundaries.

In order to achieve Substance Abuse Counselor status, the individual will need to meet education, experience, and examination requirements. The Department requires 360 hours of related education, with a minimum 60 hours in each of five content areas (assessment training, counseling, case management, education and professional responsibility) and another 60 hours of electives drawn from among these content areas. The education can be pursued as part of an approved degree program or 360-hour program. The Department has provided a list of approved programs. Programs are sponsored by various institutions, including universities and technical colleges. The prospective substance abuse counselor will have his or her approved program complete a verification form at the time of application.

The prospective SAC will need 4,000 hours of supervised practice. The Department cannot credit more than 40 hours in a week or 2,000 hours in a year. Experience is to have been accrued during the prior five year period. Experience must include eight practice modalities; modalities include duties such as treatment planning, service coordination, and education as well as actual counseling. Experience must include 1,000 hours of counseling (500 of these individual) and 2,000 hours in practice modalities.

The candidate will take the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) written Alcohol and Drug Counselor Examination. The candidate may take the test before completing the supervised practice requirement. Department approval is required; this can be granted after initial application. The Department has provided links to resources (

Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements

A prospective CSAC will need a degree in a behavioral science discipline. The CSAC credential is dependent on accruing fully 7,000 hours of experience in the eight practice modalities.

Credentialing at the CSAC level is also dependent on passing the IC&RC written Alcohol and Drug Counselor Examination. A CSAC candidate who took the examination before June 1, 2008 must retake it unless he or she also completed the case presentation examination.

Reciprocity may be granted based on substantial equivalency.

The Application Process

Links to applications and other required forms can be found on the Department of Safety and Professional Services website; the applicant should click on the specific credential he or she seeks (

Some documentation will need to come from third parties; this includes supervisor verification and verification of education hours. An applicant who has already passed the IC&RC ADC examination will need to arrange for verification directly from the IC&RC.

Currently, fees are as follows: $75 for the credential, $75 for the jurisprudence exam, and $115 for the IC&RC examination.

Adjunct Certification for Mental Health Professionals in Related Fields

A professional who is licensed by the Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Counseling and Social Work Examining Board may carry out a limit set of addiction-related duties on the strength of his or her license ( The person can achieve adjunct specialty certification under a modified set of requirements.

A professional who holds a license that requires a master’s degree will need 135 hours of education related to substance use disorder. Education must cover the following: understanding of addiction, addiction treatment knowledge, application to practice, and professional knowledge.

The individual will need 200 hours of face-to-face substance disorder treatment. The experience may or may not be part of the experience used to earn the qualifying license. It must, however, meet requirements described in state code.

A professional who holds a license that requires only a bachelor’s degree will need 180 hours of education related to substance use disorder and full 1,000 hours of face-to-face experience.

Additional Information

Information about licensing in substance abuse counseling and related disciplines is available from the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services ( DSPS can be reached by telephone at (608) 266-2112. Substance abuse standards are described in detail in state administrative code (

Recovery and Addiction Professionals of Wisconsin is the state affiliate of the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), a well-known professional organization (

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