Substance Abuse Counselor Training in California - CA

Substance abuse counselors help people overcome difficulties with narcotics, alcohol and other addictive substances. Each individual client and session comes with its own demands, but there are a few general duties that members of the profession can expect to perform:

  • Evaluating clients' health and identifying problem behaviors
  • Educating families and friends about addiction and discussing coping strategies
  • Helping clients modify behavior patterns to facilitate recovery
  • Directing clients toward support groups, career services and other community resources

Some substance abuse counselors specialize in treatment and rehabilitation while others focus on assisting with crisis or non-crisis interventions. Certain counselors may choose to specialize in helping military veterans, teenagers or other specific populations.

Subjects studied during substance abuse counselor training in California

Educational requirements for substance abuse counselors can differ from position to position. Some jobs require just a high school diploma, while others may ask candidates to possess a non-degree certification, an associate degree, a bachelor's degree or even a master's degree.

The exact subjects studied at substance abuse counselor schools tend to vary, depending on the institution and the academic level of the degree program. Here are a few general subjects taught at substance abuse counselor training programs in California:

  • Clinical evaluation
  • Behavioral pharmacology
  • Law and ethics
  • Psychology of addiction
  • Counseling techniques
  • Intervention techniques
  • Dependency prevention strategies
  • Case management

Degree and non-degree programs each have their own customary levels of breadth and intensity. Most training programs in California include an internship, externship or other type of experiential learning component.

Licensing and certification for California substance abuse counselors

Most substance abuse counselors must be licensed in the state where they wish to practice. Licenses for California substance abuse counselors are overseen by the CCBADC, or California Certification Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors.

The largest credentialing organization within the CCBADC is the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, or CAADAC, where aspiring counselors can be registered and certified at multiple experience levels:

  • Registered Student (RS)
  • Registered Recovery Worker (RRW)
  • Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor Associate (CADCA)
  • Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor I (CADC-I)
  • Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor II (CADC-II)
  • Licensed Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LAADC)

CAADAC also offers specialty certifications, for professionals looking to demonstrate their expertise with a narrow but complex area of substance abuse counseling:

  • Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
  • Certified Criminal Justice Addiction Professional (CCJP)
  • California Certified Prevention Specialist (CCPS)

Each credential comes with its own education and job experience requirements, as well as certificate-specific exams, applications and fees. Check the CAADAC website for up-to-date information on California substance abuse certifications and their exact requirements.

California substance abuse counselor salary information and job outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) indicates that substance abuse counselors should see around 31 percent employment growth nationwide between 2012 and 2022. California employed the second-highest number of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in the country in a recent BLS report, furnishing 9,090 jobs in 2013, which should lead to more than 2,800 new positions by 2022 if the projections hold up.

The mean annual wage for substance abuse counselors in California was $38,260 in 2013, according to the BLS, which was less than the national yearly average of $41,090 the same year. Certain California metro areas paid substance abuse counselors more than the national average, however, including San Francisco ($44,380), Vallejo-Fairfield ($48,370) and Modesto ($48,770).


Certificate Program in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies, UC Berkeley Extension, 2014, http://extension.berkeley.edu/cert/alcohol.html

Registry and Certification, California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, 2014, https://www.caadac.org/ladder/

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211011.htm

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-6

Substance Abuse Counselor Certificate Program, University of the Pacific, 2014, http://www.pacific.edu/Academics/Professional-and-Continuing-Education/Programs/Certificate-Programs/Substance-Abuse-Counselor-Certificate-Program.html

Substance Abuse Counselor Schools

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            Capella combines outstanding academics with a supportive faculty and staff in a program designed for working adults.

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