Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in Tennessee

Tennessee substance abuse counselors are regulated by the Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors. Licensure is granted on the basis of coursework in addictions, practice under supervision, and written, oral, and jurisprudence examinations.

Select a Tennessee Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor topic below…

Educational Requirements

Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors must be at least 21 and hold, at minimum, high school diplomas or GEDs. Additionally, they must have 270 hours of classroom education that addresses the primary functions of the job ( The Board defines these as screening, intake, orientation, counseling, treatment planning, assessment, case management, client education, crisis management, referral, consultation with other professionals, and record keeping and reports ( The candidate will document at least ten hours in each. The candidate must have six hours of ethics training; ethics coursework may be included as part of the required 270 hours. Education may take the form of formal workshops or courses offered by community colleges and other approved providers.

Supervised Practice Requirements

Trainees must have 6,000 hours of supervised experience ( Experience must be accrued over a period of at least three years. The clinical supervisor is to be an alcohol and drug counselor who holds a Certificate of Qualified Supervision (CQS). An internship or training program may count for up to a year of experience. Unpaid work may be credited if it is done in accordance with a job description and otherwise meets Board requirements (

Examination Requirements

Candidates take three examinations. The first one is the jurisprudence examination. This is to be submitted with the application. It is open book. Applicants must score 90% (

The written and oral examinations will not be taken until the candidate’s application file has been reviewed. The written exam is one that was developed by the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). It is currently offered in Tennessee three times a year. A candidate who fails an examination attempt will retake the test the next time it is offered. A successful candidate will be notified when the oral examination will be held. Candidates are usually given 30 days advance notice.

The oral examination includes a case presentation. The candidate will write up the case study before application and solicit a supervisor’s signature. The original and four copies will be mailed with the application materials; the candidate will need to retain a copy. Detailed instructions can be found in the application packet. The oral exam may address the NAADAC Code of Ethics, primary functions, and other issues related to practice.

A candidate is allowed two attempts at the oral examination. The Board requires candidates who fail a second time to reapply and retake the written exam if they still seek licensure (

Criminal Background Check Requirement

Sponsored Content

Tennessee requires criminal background checks carried out by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the FBI. All candidates will have fingerprints processed by Tennessee’s approved vendor, Identogo. However, procedures will be different for in-state and out-of-state applicants. In-state candidates will make appointments to have fingerprints captured electronically. Out-of-state candidates will contact the Board to request fingerprint cards, then have the fingerprints made at a local law enforcement agency. They will register through Identogo and send their cards through the mail for scanning and electronic processing. The fee may be paid online. An applicant who chooses not to do may include a money order for the processing fee (currently $42) with the fingerprint cards.

Wherever they reside, candidates can register by visiting the ‘Tennessee’ page of the Identogo site ( or calling (855) 226-2937.

The Application Process

Application materials are available for download on the Board site ( Candidates who request applications from the Board will receive the jurisprudence examination in hard copy form.

The applicant will write a three page paper outlining his or her philosophy of treatment; this is in addition to the eight to fourteen page case study. The applicant will also need two recent letters of recommendation.

The application packet includes several pages that require notarization. Among them is an affidavit of ethical conduct. An applicant who has a college degree should request that transcripts be sent. Otherwise, the applicant should submit a notarized copy of the high school diploma or GED. The birth certificate copy should also be certified or notarized.

The applicant must remit $260 in fees; these are nonrefundable. Testing and licensing fees will be assessed later (

The candidate will need to fill out a practitioner profile questionnaire (

Reciprocity Candidates

Substance abuse counselors who hold licenses or equivalent credentials in other states may be licensed by reciprocity provided the licensing standards were comparable to, or higher than, those of Tennessee ( Candidates must be at least 21 years of age. They will be required to pass the state jurisprudence examination.

Additional Information

The Tennessee Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors ( can be reached by telephone at 615-532-3202 or 1-800-778-4123.

The Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & other Addiction Services ( and the Tennessee Association of Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Counselors ( are additional professional resources.

Sponsored Content