Chemical Dependency Professional Requirements in Washington

Washington’s addiction counselors are credentialed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Certification as a Chemical Dependency Professional is based on meeting education, examination, and supervised practice requirements. Individuals may hold Chemical Dependency Professional Trainee status while they are working toward meeting requirements.

Addiction counselors who are coming under Washington jurisdiction may use third party certifications to demonstrate that some requirements have been met.

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Select a Washington Chemical Dependency Professional topic below…

Educational Requirements

The foundation for certification is an associate’s degree or 60 semester hours of college coursework ( At least 30 semester hours must relate to the chemical dependency profession. The following topics are to be covered:

  • Pharmacological actions of drugs and alcohol
  • Understanding addiction
  • Treatment methods
  • Addiction placement/ discharge criteria/ continuing care
  • Treatment planning
  • Developmental psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Cultural diversity and treatment implications
  • Clinical evaluation, including referral for comorbid disorders
  • HIV/ AIDS brief risk intervention
  • Service coordination
  • Community resources and referral
  • Case management
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Chemical dependency family and couple counseling
  • Relapse prevention
  • Client/ family/ community education
  • Professional and ethical responsibility
  • Confidentiality
  • Adolescent chemical dependency
  • Documentation
  • Rules and regulations

National/ international certification through an approved organization is taken as evidence that the counselor has met the above addiction-specific educational requirements (

An individual may be granted trainee status on the basis of enrollment in a qualifying program ( Washington mandates four hours of AIDS training; this must be completed for credentialing at the trainee level. A worker seeking to renew trainee status must be in the process of meeting educational requirements (if they are not yet complete).

Examination Requirement

Certification depends on successful examination performance. Candidates attempt the examination after other requirements have been met. Washington will accept either the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) or International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (ICRC) examinations. The IC&RC examination must be Level II or higher; Level I is acceptable on the NAADAC exam (

Application and fees are to be submitted to the licensing agency at least 90 days before examination; all supporting documentation is to be in no less than 60 days before. The DOH has provided a list of NAADAC test dates and associated deadlines (

Supervised Experience Requirement

Experience requirements vary, depending on educational level. Professionals who hold associate’s degrees in human services or other related fields must accrue 2,500 hours of supervised experience ( Those who hold bachelor’s degrees in qualifying fields must do 2,000 hours; if the degree is at the master’s or doctoral level, the requirement is reduced to 1,500 hours. The following are considered related degrees: behavioral science, counseling education, criminal justice, divinity, health education, marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, psychiatry, psychology, and social work. Professionals who are licensed as advanced registered nurses, advanced or independent clinical social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, or mental health counselors are required to complete only 1,000 hours.

Experience must be accrued under an approved supervisor. The first 50 hours of direct client contact will be under the observation of the supervisor or another chemical dependency professional. On the application form, the supervisor will verify 100 hours of face-to-face clinical evaluation, 100 additional hours of clinical evaluation, 50 hours of discussions pertaining to ethical and professional responsibilities, and 600 face-to-face counseling hours. The number of hours spent in transdisciplinary foundations will vary by degree level. Experience that took place more than seven years in the past cannot be credited.

An individual who is simultaneously providing services in co-occurring disorders will need to hold another credential; agency-affiliated counselor will suffice (

The trainee credential must be renewed annually. An individual can renew four times and hold the credential for a maximum of five years. The licensing agency notes that individuals who lose trainee status may still be eligible for other credentials, for example, certified adviser or agency affiliated counselor. Options will depend on educational level.

The Application Process

Application materials are available on the DOH site ( Candidates answer questions about professional and legal history and about health status. Affirmative answers require supporting documentation. Such applications will take longer to review.

Applicants at the professional level will need to submit official transcripts. Transcripts that are not in English must be translated and evaluated. Syllabi may be needed if course titles do not clearly reflect topics. Supervisor verification will also be required (except in the case of NAADAC or IC&RC certified candidates).

A Chemical Dependency Professional Trainee pays a $110 application fee ( A Chemical Dependency Professional pays a $200 application fee and a $225 initial certification fee. Additional fees will be due to the testing company.

The Department of Health utilizes the Washington State Patrol database for criminal background checks ( Out-of-state candidates are required to have fingerprint-based background checks. Candidates with criminal backgrounds may also be required to have their fingerprints made. The DOH will notify those who need to go through the fingerprinting process.

Out-of-State Addiction Counselors

Candidates must request verification from all states where they have held licensing; on the application, they must list all states where they have applied, even if a credential was not granted.

Out-of-state addiction counselors can be certified by reciprocity if their state has similar requirements. Washington has reviewed the licensing policies of most other states to determine which are substantially equivalent. The following were found not substantially equivalent: California, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia. Some states have more than one credentialing level. Out-of-state addiction counselors can view the DOH list to see which credentials from their home state can be accepted (

Candidates who have passed the examination may have their scores verified by the state. Candidates who hold international IC&RC certification or national NAADAC certification may have their credential verified by the certifying body. Candidates who verify certification will need to provide transcripts documenting that they have the required semester hours, but will not need to document addictions coursework or supervised experience. The application form states that 30 semester hours must be verified beyond those required for certification.

An applicant who is a spouse or domestic partner of a service member who has been relocated to Washington may be eligible for expedited certification ( ).

Additional Information

Candidates may visit the Department of Health website for certification information (

WAADAC is the state’s NAADAC affiliate and serves as an additional professional resource (WAADAC).