Substance Abuse/Alcohol and Drug/Addiction Counselor Requirements in California

The California Department of Health Care Services licenses and certifies alcohol and drug abuse facilities. California requires professionals who provide counseling and related services at these facilities to be certified by an approved agency. They begin the process by registering with an approved certification board. They then have five years to meet all requirements, including work experience.

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General Requirements for Education, Training, and Examination

All certification programs require candidates to meet minimum training requirements established in California Code ( They must meet the competences set forth in Addiction Counseling Competencies: The Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes of Professional Practice, also known as TAP 21. Alcohol and drug abuse counselors must have, at minimum, 155 hours of classroom education. They must have training in delivering services to special populations, for example, individuals with disabilities or co-occurring disorders. They must have education in ethics, communicable diseases, and sexual harassment prevention. They must have 160 hours of supervised training.

Certification is also dependent on meeting work experience requirements. The minimum is 2,080 hours. Candidates must pass an examination. There are multiple examinations that may be used; this will vary by certification agency.

Substance abuse counselors register with the certification board most suitable to their circumstances and carry out steps in accordance with that board’s requirements; candidates must be registered before they begin providing services.

There are 3 boards listed as currently providing certification:

  • California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators (CAADE)
  • California Association of DUI Treatment Programs (CADPT)
  • California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP)

The list was updated in the fall of 2021.

Option 1: California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators (CAADE)

The Addiction Counselor Certification Board of California is under the banner of the California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators. CAADE has multiple levels of registration and certification. The lowest level is Registered Addiction Counselor. Once an individual has passed the requisite examination, he or she can become an intern.

Certification is dependent on completing a CAADE-accredited program or completing a degree in a related field and demonstrating equivalent coursework (whether part of the degree program or supplemental). CAADE has provided a list of accredited programs ( All accredited programs are housed in regionally accredited schools; they are at least 36 units.

Candidates must accrue 2,240 hours in a state-licensed or state-certified facility.

The CATC I credential can be awarded to counselors who have completed accredited 30-unit programs. Programs must be housed in regionally accredited institutions. Higher tier levels represent higher levels of education in addiction studies or related behavioral science/ behavioral health fields. CATC II is associate’s level while CATC V is doctoral level. The CATC N is awarded to nurses who also meet substance abuse counselor certification requirements.

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Option 2: California Association of Drinking Driver Treatment Programs (CADTP)

The California Association of Drinking Driver Treatment Programs offers the Substance Use Disorder Registered Counselor (SUDCC) as an entry-level credential. In order to achieve the Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor (SUDCC) credential, a person must document 315 hours of education, 160 hours of practicum, and 2,080 hours of work experience; the candidate must also pass the IC & RC examination (

Addiction counselors may move up to SUDCC II status when they have five years (10,000 hours of work experience). SUDC III and SUD IV have the same experience requirement but higher requirements for academic education. SUDC III is bachelor’s level; SUDC IV, master’s level.

CADTP also offers a clinical supervisor credential and specialty credentials.

Option 3: California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP)

The California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals, a member board of the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC & RC), offers credentials at multiple levels. Candidates may begin as registered technicians. At this level, training requirements are minimal; the individual must have nine hours of orientation.

The Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC) I credential is dependent on meeting a number of additional requirements, including education, practicum, and examination. The work experience requirement is 3,000 hours.

The CADC II credential is dependent on accruing additional experience; the experience requirement is less if the individual has a bachelor’s degree. The CADC III credential is dependent on attainment of a bachelor’s degree. The Licensed Advanced Alcohol Drug Counselor (LAADC) credential requires a master’s degree; 2,080 of the 4,000 experience hours must be post-degree.

Professionals can also pursue specialty certifications like Certified Criminal Justice Addiction Professional.

Alternative Credentials: Breining Institute

The Breining Institute offers the Registered Addiction Specialist (RAS) certification. It is available at four levels ( The RAS depends on 155 hours of formal training, one year of full-time clinical experience (2,080 hours), 160 hours of supervised experience, and passing scores on the Addiction Counselor Exam.

A substance abuse counselor who has an associate’s degree in healing arts/ sciences may achieve RAS II after three years; a counselor who does not may achieve RAS II after five years and 450 hours of education. RAS III may be achieved by an addiction specialist with an associate or baccalaureate degree in healing arts/ sciences; however, the experience requirement will vary. The M-RAS credential can be achieved more quickly by a professional with a graduate degree.

The Breining Institute also offers specialty credentials.

The Application Process

Application materials are available on the sites of the individual certification boards. Candidates should be aware that if the board operates in states other than California, there may be separate California registration materials.

Individuals who have been registered or certified will appear in the database of the certifying agency.


While California does not recognize certification boards other than those specifically approved, the individual boards have the power to grant reciprocal certification based on requirements that were met through other programs; standards must be the same or higher.


Licensed professionals, including psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists, are exempt from the certification requirement ( However, they must fulfill a continuing education requirement.

Additional Information

Information is available from the California Department of Health Care Services ( Questions can be addressed to ‘dhcsocomplaint at’.

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