How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Wisconsin

Working with clients who suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse, and other addiction issues, substance abuse counselors play an important role in the recovery process for patients of all backgrounds. Substance abuse counselors enjoy strong job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health counselors to grow 23% through 2026, which is more than triple the national average for all occupations.

This guide explores how to become a substance abuse counselor in Wisconsin. It covers common course and degree requirements, internship hours, and required national and regional exams for licensure. The guide also includes information about professional organizations and resources for substance abuse counselors.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Wisconsin

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Wisconsin here

Education and Experience Requirements

The Wisconsin counselor board offers several counseling licenses, including substance abuse counselor, clinical substance abuse counselor, and clinical supervisor. Each level of licensure requires more clinical experience hours, and in the case of clinical supervisor, advanced education. The section below outlines general education and clinical experience requirements for Wisconsin counseling licensure.

Academic Requirements

Wisconsin does not require a specific degree for substance abuse counselor licensure, though all applicants must possess at least a high school diploma or GED. Applicants for the clinical substance abuse counselor license must possess at least an associate degree in a behavioral science field. Candidates for clinical supervisor typically hold at least a bachelor's or master's degree in a behavioral science, though the license can also be obtained through significant clinical experience.

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

Candidates for both substance abuse counselor and clinical substance abuse counselor licensure must complete a minimum of 360 hours of specialized education, including:

  • 60 hours of assessment training
  • 60 hours of counseling training
  • 60 hours of case management
  • 60 hours of patient education
  • 60 hours of professional responsibility
  • Six hours of boundaries and ethics
  • 54 hours of electives in any of the preceding subjects

Clinical supervisor candidates must complete 30 additional hours of clinical education, including at least six hours in each of four topics:

  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Counselor development
  • Management and administration
  • Professional responsibility

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Substance abuse counselor candidates must complete a minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised work in an approved counseling setting. Clinical substance abuse candidates must complete at least 5,000 hours of supervised work. Clinical supervisor candidates must hold clinical substance abuse licensure or a related license and complete the same clinical hours.

The Exam and Application Process for Wisconsin Substance Abuse Counselors

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Public Services (DSPS) oversees professional licensure for substance abuse counselors in the state. While the process differs slightly between professional licenses, all candidates must pass the state jurisprudence exam and submit an application and corresponding fee.

Candidates for the substance abuse counselor and clinical substance abuse counselor licenses must pass the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors' NCAC I exam. Candidates for clinical supervisor licensure must pass the National Association of Alcoholism Counselors and Trainers' NCSE exam.

all substance abuse counselor candidates must pass the state jurisprudence exam and submit an application and corresponding fee

Candidates who are licensed to perform clinical social work, marriage and family therapy, or professional counseling can apply for the clinical supervisor license with fewer education requirements, though these candidates must complete the same application process.

Licensure candidates who have been convicted of a crime or have pending criminal charges must submit all information related to the crime as requested by the Wisconsin counselor board. The board assesses the circumstances of any crime and determines whether it affects a candidate's ability to practice substance abuse counseling in the state.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Wisconsin offers a reciprocity program for applicants who hold substance abuse counselor or clinical supervisor licensure in other U.S. states or territories. The state board determines the equivalency of credentials for reciprocity applicants, who must submit an application along with a fee. Applicants must also pass the Wisconsin jurisprudence examination.

Applicants with a criminal history or disciplinary action on their credential must submit relevant information to the state board, which determines an applicant's eligibility for Wisconsin licensure based on the circumstances.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Licensed substance abuse counselors in Wisconsin must renew their credentials every two years. As part of the renewal process, all counselors must complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education, including four hours dedicated to professional ethics and boundaries. Clinical supervisors must also complete at least four hours of continuing education related to the supervision of other substance abuse counselors.

Licensed substance abuse counselors in Wisconsin must renew their credentials every two years

Counselors can fulfill continuing education credits through avenues such as taking higher education courses, participating in professional training programs, giving presentations, and contributing to scholarly publications.

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Wisconsin

Substance abuse counseling students and professionals can take advantage of professional organizations and resources. Many professional organizations offer continuing education, professional development, and networking opportunities. The following list highlights some of the most popular organizations and resources for counselors in Wisconsin and nationwide.

  • AddictionCounselorCE Offering a convenient online portal for continuing professional education, AddictionCounselorCE enables substance counselors to complete dozens of online courses that build skills and meet Wisconsin's continuing education requirements.
  • American Counseling Association One of the country's largest organizations for counselors of all types, the ACA offers many professional resources, including conferences, continuing education opportunities, ethics consultations, and public advocacy.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine An organization primarily for physicians, ASAM admits other addiction professionals who receive sponsorship from current members. Member benefits include career listings, publications, clinical resources, and professional conferences.
  • International Association of Addictions & Offender Counselors The IAAOC offers an assortment of resources for substance abuse counselors, including professional conferences and research committees. It also publishes the Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling.
  • NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals Formerly known as the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, NAADAC offers education and professional resources along with conferences and events.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers Founded in 1978, NAATP provides law and policy advocacy as well as clinical and operational resources for addiction professionals, such as job listings and professional development services.
  • National Association of Lesbian and Gay Addiction Professionals Founded in 1979 to address substance abuse problems in the LGBTQ community, NALGAP provides training, clinical resources, and professional conferences for counselors.
  • National Association of State Alcohol & Drug Abuse Directors A private nonprofit organization that serves state agencies responsible for public addiction, treatment, prevention, and recovery programs, NASADAD offers job postings, advocacy resources, and research to support substance abuse professionals.
  • Recovery and Addiction Professionals of Wisconsin A regional affiliate of the Association for Addiction Professionals, RAP-WI serves the needs of recovery and addiction professionals in the state, offering continuing education opportunities, professional development resources, and advocacy services.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Part of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA offers trainings, research grants, and other resources for substance counselors.

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