Arizona substance abuse counselors are credentialed by a governmental organization. They receive their licenses through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, the same Board that issues licenses to mental health counselors and social workers. The Board recognizes three levels of substance abuse professional: Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC), Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor (LASAC), and Licensed Substance Abuse Technician (LSAT). The levels are distinguished by academic degree.
Arizona requires all licensees to hold degrees at at least the associate level, even for a "technician" level unless the requirement is waived under conditions described in state administrative code. This requirement is different than it is in many parts of the nation. Prospective licensees will take examinations that are in common use around the nation. However, in some instances, they will meet requirements that are a little higher.
Master’s graduates will hold associate licensing en route to independent licensing. In this way, requirements for substance abuse counselors are similar to those of other mental health professionals. For a bachelor’s level practitioner, the Licensed Associate Substance Abuse counselor credential may be a terminal license. However, a baccalaureate graduate will not achieve the license until at least two years post-degree.
There were changes to standards in 2015. Candidates who complete their education by October 31, 2017 can request to be evaluated under previous standards.
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Degrees must be earned through regionally accredited institutions.
A person can become a Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor with a degree at the baccalaureate level or higher. The counselor can be assured of meeting educational requirements if the degree program is accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC). The prospective student can search for accredited programs on the NASAC website (https://nasacaccreditation.org/accreditation/nasac-accredited-programs/).
Other programs can be accepted after review. A program at the baccalaureate level will include, at minimum, 30 semester hours of counseling-related coursework. A program at the master’s level will include, at minimum, 24 semester hours of counseling-related coursework.
Under new requirements, baccalaureate and associate programs must include coursework in particular content areas. The following are to be included:
Prospective substance abuse professionals who complete qualifying degrees but have deficiencies can make them up post-graduation.
Applicants may be approved on the basis of having completed programs that were approved in the past under provision 32-3253(A)(14).
A master’s level LASAC candidate will need to demonstrate at least 300 hours of practicum.
A baccalaureate degree holder must complete 3,200 hours of supervised practice in order to be licensed at the LASAC level. A master's graduate must complete 3,200 hours to be licensed at the higher LISAC level. In both cases, the graduate must accrue at least 1,600 hours of direct client contact. The Board can credit no more than 400 client contact hours for psychoeducation.
The experience can be completed in no fewer than 24 months. 100 hours of clinical supervision must be provided. At least 50 hours of supervision are to be provided by a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. The Board may grant an exemption from this requirement if, for example, the geographic location makes this unfeasible.
The counselor and his or her supervisor are responsible for maintaining records. Supervision must include all required components identified in Arizona Revised Statute; these are included in the license resource guide.
The Board maintains a registry of professionals who are qualified to work as supervisors but notes that it will not include all prospective supervisors as inclusion is voluntary.
Technicians have a longer experience period.
The Arizona Board can accept examinations by any of three national organizations: the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC & RC), the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). However, the NBCC examination is not currently available (http://www.nbcc.org/Certification/MasterAddictionsCounselor).
A professional can be licensed at the counselor level on the basis of the Level II NAADAC Examination or the IC & RC Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor Examination.
A professional can be licensed at the technician level on the basis of either IC & RC or NAADAC examination. The Level I NAADAC Examination can be accepted at this level. The basic IC & RC Alcohol and Drug Counselor examination is also appropriate.
A qualified candidate can schedule directly through NAADAC or the NBCC. IC & RC examinations, on the other hand, are administered by member organizations. In most cases, an Arizona IC&RC candidate will test through the Arizona Board for the Certification of Addiction Counselors (ABCAC). Substance abuse professionals who work with Native populations, though, may test through the Southwest Certification Board.
ABCAC notes that IC & RC examinations are available on an ongoing basis at computerized testing sites located in Phoenix and Flagstaff. They are also available in pencil and paper format in Phoenix, but only on select dates. The examination form can be downloaded from the ABCAC website (https://www.abcac.org/testing-information.html).
A recent graduate may be approved for a temporary license pending examination.
Out-of-state substance abuse professionals who hold equivalent licenses may be endorsed if they meet other requirements described in state statute. A professional can instead be licensed in Arizona at a lower level than his or her out-of-state credential.
The applicant will need to provide information about any behavioral health credential he or she has held. In many cases, verification can be carried out online. In cases where it cannot, the Board will require a verification form.
The Board will also require information about licenses in fields other than behavioral health if they are from the most recent ten year period.
A substance abuse counselor who holds a current out-of-state credential may begin work sooner under a temporary license.
Applications and guides can be downloaded from the Board website (http://www.azbbhe.us/node/559).
The Board will require official transcripts. They are to be included in sealed envelopes.
The applicant will do a self-query of the federal data bank for health practitioners.
The application form requires notarization.
Licensees complete a total of 30 hours of continuing education. The Board has set requirements for particular content areas.
Licensing information is available from the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (http://www.azbbhe.us/). The Board can be reached by telephone at 602-542-1882 or by email at ‘information at azbbhe.us’.