Addiction Counselor Requirements in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia’s addiction counselors are certified by the Board of Professional Counseling. To qualify, individuals must complete degrees at the associate’s level or higher. They must also take Board-mandated coursework, complete a supervised practice requirement, and pass two examinations: a national addiction counseling examination and a jurisprudence examination. There are two levels of certification: Certified Addiction Counselor I, or CAC I, and Certified Addiction Counselor II, or CAC II.

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Education and Training Requirements: CAC I

A CAC I candidate will need an associate’s degree in a human services or health field (http://doh.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/doh/Addiction_Counselors_Regulations.pdf). The following degrees would be considered certification-qualifying: aging studies, criminal justice, health education, mental health, or registered nursing. The Board notes that this list is not all-inclusive.

The candidate must have three credit hours in each of the following:

  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Crisis intervention
  • Cultural factors
  • Diagnostic and screening criteria
  • Ethics, regulations, and rules
  • Human behavior and family system dynamics
  • Models of addiction, recovery process, motivational interviewing, treatment, stages of change, group dynamics and adjunctive support groups, relapse prevention
  • Professional identity
  • Psychopharmacology resources
  • Substance abuse signs and symptoms

Coursework taken outside the degree can be accepted if it taken through an accredited institution or through a program that holds National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) approval.

A CAC I must have at least 500 hours of supervised experience. It must address the same concepts that are addressed in the required substance abuse courses (e.g. substance abuse signs and symptoms); counseling skills and treatment planning/ research must also be addressed. At least 40 hours of supervised experience is required in each of the twelve mandated areas. While accruing hours, a graduate will work under supervision as specified in 8715 of DC regulations (http://doh.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/doh/Addiction_Counselors_Regulations.pdf). If the agency operates multiple sites and is unable to have a qualified supervisor at the site where the graduate is practicing, the supervisor must be available by communication device; in such instances, the supervisor will need to meet with the supervisee at least an hour per week.

The candidate must also pass the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC-NCC) Level I examination.

Education and Training Requirements: CAC II

A CAC II candidate must have a degree at the baccalaureate level; it should be in a health or human services field.

The specific coursework requirements are similar to those of a CAC I, but the baccalaureate level candidate will need nine semester hours of coursework in areas such as models of addiction, recovery process, group dynamics, treatment, and relapse prevention. The CAC II will also need three semester hours of treatment planning and research and three semester hours of individual and group counseling.

The candidate must have at least 180 hours of supervised experience with at least ten hours in each of the following: screening, intake, orientation, assessment, treatment planning, counseling, crisis intervention, client education, referral, reporting and charting, and consultation with other professionals.

A CAC II candidate must take the NAADAC-NCC Level II examination.

The Jurisprudence Examination

Candidates for certification at either level must take the District of Columbia Jurisprudence Examination. The exam covers the NAADAC code of ethics as well as DC statutes and regulations. DC regulations state that the exam will be administered at least three times per year. Retakes are allowed. However, any candidate who fails three examination attempts must take an approved refresher course.

A study guide is available in the ‘forms’ section of the certifying agency’s website (http://doh.dc.gov/node/20742).

Criminal Background Checks

The District of Columbia requires pre-certification criminal background checks (http://doh.dc.gov/node/120532). These are carried out by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the FBI. Fingerprints may be made by L-1 Enrollment Services. L-1 does Livescan (electronic) fingerprint capture. Candidates can schedule appointments by visiting the DC page of the L-1 website (http://www.l1enrollment.com/state/?st=DC) or calling 877-783-4187. Fingerprinting locations are listed for DC, Virginia, and Maryland (http://www.l1enrollment.com/locations/?st=dc). Candidates who live too far from an L-1 center may have hard cards scanned and processed by L-1. DC residents who wish to utilize Metropolitan Police Department services may call 202-442-9004.

The Application Process

An addiction counselor first comes under Board jurisdiction while completing post-degree supervised practice. The supervisee must submit documentation within two weeks of beginning practice; the supervisor must also submit paperwork.

Candidates typically submit CAC I or CAC II application materials after all requirements have been met but the examinations; the Board will grant permission to sit for examinations. A candidate who has already taken the required NAADAC examination can call 1-800-548-0497 to request score verification.

Application materials can be downloaded from the Department of Health website (http://doh.dc.gov/node/20742).

Official transcripts are to be in sealed envelopes. Verification of supervision is also to be included in a sealed envelope with the supervisor’s name signed across the seal.

Candidates will submit course requirements forms and training forms at the appropriate level. They must include two passport-type photographs and a copy of an ID with their application package.

Application for CAC I or CAC II costs $190; there is an additional $50 fee for the criminal background check.

Certification candidates who have questions can call 877-672-2174 between 8:30 and 4:45 on weekdays.

A candidate who needs to retake the NAADAC will submit another application form along with an $85 fee.

Addiction Counselors Certified in Other U.S. Jurisdictions

Addiction counselors who are certified by other U.S. jurisdictions can be endorsed into the District of Columbia. DC will accept either the NAADAC examination or another state-approved examination. The addiction counselor will still need to pass the DC jurisprudence examination.

Internationally Educated Addiction Counselors

Internationally educated addiction counselors are eligible for licensure in the District of Columbia provided 1) they graduated from programs that were accredited in their own nations or 2) their education is found to be equivalent. Equivalency must be determined by a Board-approved evaluation service. Required documents that are not in English must be translated; the translator must attest to their accuracy. The Board may request an interview to ascertain that education and training are at the level DC requires.

Additional Information

Addictions Counselor Licensing (http://doh.dc.gov/service/addiction-counselors-licensing) can be reached by telephone at (877) 672-2174.

The District of Columbia Addiction Professional Consortium is an additional resource (http://www.naadac.org/district-of-columbia).