Addiction Counselor Requirements in Colorado

Colorado addiction counselors are regulated by the State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners. There are three levels of credentialing:

  • Certified Addiction Technician
  • Certified Addiction Specialist
  • Licensed Addiction Counselor

All credentials require supervised experience and passing scores on an examination.

The Certified Addiction Specialist credential can be achieved with a high school education and training in content areas mandated by the Board. The Certified Addiction Specialist requires a bachelor’s degree while the Licensed Addiction Counselor requires a master’s.

The Colorado Department of Human Services characterizes LACs as “true behavioral health clinicians” who can provide services for people with co-occurring disorders (https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health/workforce-development).

Select a Colorado Addiction Counselor topic below…

 

Certified Addiction Technician Requirements

A CAT must have a high school diploma or GED and coursework in addiction (https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health/workforce-development). The coursework is to include 21 hours each of addiction treatment principles, addiction counseling skills, motivational interviewing, and group counseling skills. Additionally, a counselor at this level will need 14 hours in each of the following:

  • Case conceptualization and documentation
  • Culturally informed treatment
  • Professional ethics
  • Pharmacology
  • Trauma-informed care

In order to achieve the CAT, an individual must have 1,000 hours of relevant work experience. The experience must take place over a period of at least six months. A full-time worker will need three hours of clinical supervision a month.

The candidate must pass the NAADAC (Association of Addiction Counselors) examination at the NCAC I level. He or she must also pass a state jurisprudence exam.

Colorado no longer requires substance abuse workers to be registered in a state database of unlicensed psychotherapists while they accrue their initial hours. However, they will be required to hold the CAT in order to work at the technician level beyond the time that they have completed their 1,000 hours.

The Colorado Office of Behavioral Health provides resources for agencies that have interns who are working toward meeting licensing requirements.

Certified Addiction Specialist Requirements

The CAS is dependent on holding a degree at the bachelor’s level or higher. The degree may be in substance abuse or a related health sciences field like psychology, human services, or social work. An applicant may pursue equivalency evaluation. The licensing agency notes, though, that it does not generally accept sociology, nursing, or criminal justice degrees as they are not typically found to include required elements.

A CAS must have all coursework required for the CAT plus 11 additional training courses (https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health/workforce-development).

The student will receive 35 hours of supervisory training (two separate classes). He or she will have 14 hours in each of the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Co-existing conditions
  • Infectious diseases in substance abuse
  • Advanced treatment models
  • Advanced motivational interviewing
  • Advanced case conceptualization
  • Advanced professional/ethical practice
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Treating diverse populations
  • The CAS credential requires 2,000 experience hours (1,000 beyond what is required for the CAT). The total experience period must be at least 12 months.

    The qualifying exam is the NCAC II. A CAS candidate who has already completed a qualifying graduate degree program may take the MAC instead. Both are NADAAC examinations.

    A full-time counselor who is working toward the CAS will need three hours of supervision a month unless he or she has completed a clinical master’s or is enrolled in a master’s level internship. (In this case, the requirement can be reduced to two hours.)

    Licensed Addiction Counselor Requirements

    A LAC will need a master’s or doctorate in a relevant clinical field (https://dpo.colorado.gov/AddictionCounselor/ApplicationsDocs). He or she must meet training requirements in specific areas (for example, 14 hours of infectious diseases as they relate to substance abuse). There are a number of courses that the counselor must either take or demonstrate equivalency for. Among them are advanced case conceptualization and advanced motivational interviewing).

    A LAC must demonstrate 3,000 hours of supervised practice. A full-time worker will need at least two supervision hours a month.

    An LAC candidates must take the NAADAC MAC. The examination is to be taken post-master.

    Jurisprudence Examination

    The candidate must also take the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination. This tests knowledge of statutes and rules, confidentiality and privilege, prohibited activities, disciplinary action, and emergency procedures. The examination is open book and can be taken online. A candidate pays a $20 fee.

    The Board does not place limits on the number of times a candidate attempts the exam. However, a candidate who fails an attempt must wait ten days before re-enrolling. He or she must pay an additional $20.

    The Application Process

    Application materials are available on the site of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, or DORA (https://dpo.colorado.gov/AddictionCounselor). The application itself is online.

    Training can be verified through college transcripts and CERTS ID. (CERTS is a Colorado-based online system.)

    The candidate will complete a health professions profile.

    Out-of-state candidates are to request official verification from their licensing or certification agency. Endorsement applicants will seek credential evaluation through the Center for Credentialing & Education; they will upload the evaluation to the licensing system.

    Endorsement Candidates

    Out-of-state candidates are to request official verification from their licensing or certification agency. They should include detailed information about licensing requirements met in the other state. A candidate who has not passed an appropriate examination in another jurisdiction may be required to do so. All candidates will need to take the Colorado jurisprudence exam.

    Addiction counselors should use the endorsement application if they are licensed in another jurisdiction.

    Additional Information

    The State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners can be found on the web at https://dpo.colorado.gov/AddictionCounselor. The licensing office can be reached at (303) 894-7800.

    The Colorado Association of Addiction Professionals is an additional professional resource (http://www.caap.us/). Candidates can turn to CAAP for examination information.