Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services certifies the state’s substance abuse counselors. Certification as a Substance Abuse Counselor or Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor is granted to individuals who complete approved substance use disorder education, pass certification and jurisprudence examinations, and fulfill supervised practice requirements; the CSAC credential also requires an academic degree. An individual begins accruing hours under a Substance Abuse Counselor-in-Training credential.

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Requirements: Substance Abuse Counselor-in-Training

An individual can receive the substance abuse counselor-in-training credential after completing 100 hours of education in Department-mandated areas. Requirements are as follows: 15 hours each in substance abuse counseling, assessment, and education, ten hours in substance abuse case management, and 20 in professional responsibility. The remaining 25 may consist of electives in the core performance domains. A clinical supervisor will confirm that the educational hours are appropriate for the job role.

The individual will have to have at least an offer of employment or a written volunteer agreement before the credential will be granted. The credential depends on passing an open book examination on relevant state law and administrative code; a reference list is available online ( The exam can be taken on a MAC computer. The candidate will have up to three months to complete it. The minimum score is 76%. A candidate who completed the exam but does not perform satisfactorily will be required to submit a retake application and $75 fee.

A Counselor-in-Training will need two hours of clinical supervision for every 40 hours worked; at this stage, supervision must be provided by a clinical supervisor who is beyond the initial training stage ( The trainee has a limited scope of practice ( He or she may begin performing some functions immediately. Counseling will not be authorized until the worker has completed at least 300 hours of training or experience. Counselor-in-Training is a time-limited status. Two renewals are allowed.

Substance Abuse Counselor Education Requirements

A substance abuse counselor must have, at minimum, a high school diploma, GED, or HSED ( The prospective counselor must have 360 hours of core substance abuse counseling curriculum. There must be at least 60 hours in each of the following substance abuse performance domains: counseling, assessment, education, case management, and professional responsibility. The remaining 60 hours can be electives in the core substance abuse performance domains. Coursework must be completed as part of a comprehensive program; an exception is made for individuals who had accrued at least 100 hours by March 1, 2007. No more than half the hours in any performance domain may be completed online ( A candidate who completes a Department-approved degree program will not need to complete the 360 hours separately (

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Substance Abuse Counselor Experience Requirements

A trainee must accrue at least 4,000 hours of supervised experience prior to licensure unless he or she holds a clinically focused degree that has a concentration or emphasis in addictions. At least 2,000 of the 4,000 hours must be spent with individuals who have substance use disorders as their primary diagnosis. At least 1,000 hours must be spent in substance use disorder counseling. At least 200 counseling hours must have been earned during the 12 month period prior to application; of these, at least 100 must consist of individual counseling.

A candidate who holds an approved associate’s degree will have the experience requirement reduced by 500 hours. An approved baccalaureate degree is considered to be the equivalent of 1,000 hours of experience; an approved graduate degree is equivalent to 2,000. All experience must be earned in the five years prior to application. An applicant may not credit more than 2,000 hours a year (or more than 40 hours in a given week).

Substance Abuse Counselor Examination Requirements

An individual must pass the IC&RC examination before certification. The licensing agency will approve candidates to take the examination once their education is complete. Once approved, the candidate will be contacted about scheduling. Wisconsin testing sites are located in Fon du Lac, Milwaukee, and Oshkosh. Candidates can schedule examinations at their own convenience.

According to the application packet, the threshold score is 500. Candidates who have already passed the required examination may call the IC&RC at 717-540-4457 to have their scores sent to the licensing agency.

A prospective counselor who has not passed the jurisprudence examination during the prior five years will need to do so before credentialing. (Some candidates will have passed it at the Counselor-in-Training level.)

Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements

An addiction professional with a degree at the associate’s level or higher may achieve CSAC status ( The individual will need additional supervised practice. Without an approved degree, the total experience requirement is 7,000 hours. With a qualifying degree, the experience requirement is reduced. An associate’s degree is worth 1,000 hours; a bachelor’s degree, 2,000 hours; a graduate degree, 4,000 hours.

Some candidates will have already passed the required examinations. Some candidates may need to go through the process again. The Wisconsin Board will accept scores on the IC&RC written examination if the examination was taken June 1, 2008 or later. Candidates who took the examination before this date may be exempted from retaking the exam if they also completed the case presentation interview by the end of 2008 (

Wisconsin’s clinical substance abuse counselors continue to work under supervision. However, supervision requirements are reduced (

The Application Process

Applicants can download and print forms from the licensing agency website ( At the trainee level, employer verification will be required. The supervisor will need to provide a notarized statement of supervision (

Applicants at the clinical level must provide official transcripts showing degree completion. CSAC applicants must also confirm that they live or work in Wisconsin at least 51% of the time.

The fee for the initial credential is $75. The IC&RC examination currently costs $115, the state law examination, $75. The application requires notarization.

Application packets are typically processed within ten business days of payment processing. However, the timeline may be longer during peak periods. Applicants can expect email notification as subsequent supporting documents arrive. Once all requirements have been met, a newly certified counselor will be able to verify and print the credential online. The review process may take considerably longer in cases where the applicant has a legal or disciplinary history.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselors

A substance abuse counselor who holds licensing in any other state must provide a letter from the Board; this applies to inactive licenses as well as active ones.

Additional information

Certification information can be found on the site of the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (

Recovery and Addiction Professionals of Wisconsin, a state affiliate of the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), is an additional professional resource (

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