Addiction Counselor Requirements in Colorado

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

  • Certified Addiction Counselor I
  • Certified Addiction Counselor II
  • Certified Addiction Counselor III
  • Licensed Addiction Counselor

Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) levels I and II can be achieved with a high school education and training in areas mandated by the Board. CAC III requires a bachelor’s degree while Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) requires a master’s.

Additionally, all credentials require supervised experience; all beyond the CAC I level require passing scores on a national examination for addiction counselors.

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Certified Addiction Counselor I Requirements

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

  • Client record management
  • Infectious diseases in addiction treatment
  • Culturally informed treatment
  • Professional ethics I
  • Pharmacology I

In order to achieve the CAC I, an individual must have 1,000 hours of relevant work experience. It must take place over a period of at least six months and include at least three of the following:

  • Orientation
  • Service coordination
  • Administrative intake
  • Administrative discharge/ discharge planning
  • Record keeping
  • Education (client, family, community)

A full-time worker will need three hours of clinical supervision a month. Supervision can be prorated, but an individual will need at least one hour per month, no matter how light the work schedule.

An individual who does any psychotherapy before earning the 1,000 hours must be registered in the Registered Psychotherapist (RP) database(https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health/workforce-development).

Certified Addiction Counselor II Requirements

A CAC II must have all coursework required for CAC I plus the additional coursework listed below.

There must be 21 hours each in group counseling skills and motivational interviewing.

There must be 14 hours in each of the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Co-existing conditions
  • Assessment and treatment planning
  • Professional Ethics II
  • Pharmacology II
  • Trauma Informed Care for Diverse Populations

A counselor with a high school diploma or equivalency will take the National Certified Addiction Counselor I examination (NCAC I). A candidate with a bachelor’s may take the NCAC I or II. A candidate with a graduate degree may opt for the NCAC II examination or the Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) examination. (These are examinations that will be required for higher level credentialing.)

Registration information is found on the site of the Colorado Association of Addiction Professionals (http://www.caap.us/pages/macandncacexaminations.html).

Certified Addiction Counselor II Experience Requirements

The CAC II credential requires 2,000 experience hours beyond what is required for CAC I. This is to be completed over at least a one-year period. The addiction counselor will need experience in at least six of the following (https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health/workforce-development):

  • Clinical evaluation
  • Treatment planning
  • Intake, discharge planning, and discharge
  • Care coordination
  • Case management
  • Co-facilitation of counseling sessions (with a professional with higher level credentialing)
  • Education of client, family, and community
  • Documentation for clinical record

At this level, the counselor still needs three hours of supervision a month (prorated to no less than one hour a month).

An individual who is not certified as a CAC I but earns hours toward CAC II must be registered in the Registered Psychotherapist (RP) database.

Certified Addiction Counselor III Requirements

A CAC III must have a bachelor’s in a behavioral field. Psychology, counseling, social work, and human services are all qualifying (https://www.caap.us/testing).

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The CAC III must have all coursework required for lower certifications plus advanced motivational interviewing, clinical practice I and II, and professional practice.

2,000 hours of additional work experience is required. At this level, an addiction counselor can carry out counseling sessions independently; co-counseling is not required. The counselor will need experience in all eight areas listed as relevant at the CAC II level. Supervision requirements are reduced to two hours per month.

A CAC III candidate will take the NCAC II unless in possession of a graduate degree; in this case, the Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) examination may be taken instead.

Licensed Addiction Counselor Requirements

The LAC will need a master’s or doctorate in behavioral sciences (or a program deemed equivalent). The individual must also meet requirements for credentialing at the CAC III level.

An LAC candidate must take the 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 an $18 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 and pay an additional $18.

The Board notes that statutory information posted on the website is not the official version. The most current version of statutes is accessible online at the Colorado Statute Manager (https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health/workforce-development).

The Application Process

Application materials are available on the site of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, or DORA (https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health/workforce-development).

Degrees are verified through official transcripts. Equivalency can be verified through transcripts and additional materials such as syllabi. Candidates will document required training on the form supplied for this purpose; a different form is used for applicants with graduate level education. The Board places time limits on required training classes but does not place limits on earned degrees.

The fee for Certified Addiction Counselor is $225. For Licensed Addiction Counselor, it is $250. Fees are subject to change on an annual basis; DORA notes that the date is July 1.

The candidate will complete a healthcare professional profile online (https://cdhs.colorado.gov/behavioral-health/workforce-development) after submitting an application.

Application status can be monitored online.

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/).