How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Colorado

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The State of Colorado requires all substance abuse counselors to hold at least the minimum certification as a Certified Assistant Addiction Counselor (CAC I) before counseling or assessing individuals, families and groups. Colorado has three higher levels of credentialing with progressively higher requirements in experience and training. Achieving the CAC I certification, however, makes a good starting point for individuals interested in this field.

Contact Colorado's Division of Registrations, Office of Licensing Mental Health Professionals, and ask for a copy of the application for addiction counselor certification. Read the application thoroughly in order to understand the necessary requirements which include mandatory coursework, 1,000 hours of clinical experience and a passing score of 80 percent on a jurisprudence exam. You can reach the Colorado DOR, OLMHP at 303-894-7800, or download an application from the DOR's website.

Enroll in the mandatory college courses and professional workshops as defined by the Office of Licensing for Mental Health Professionals. These courses must be taken and passed within five years of turning in an application for certification. The courses include: Addiction Counseling Skills, Client Record Management, Principles of Addiction Treatment, Ethical Issues in the Alcohol and Drug Clinical Setting, Diversity in Treatment Populations and Infectious Diseases in the Alcohol and Drug Treatment Setting.

Ask for help from college professors and college guidance counselors to find employment with a local counseling agency. Only a Certified Addictions Counselor III or Licensed Addictions Counselor can supervise and sign off on the hours you work. Original documentation with these signatures is necessary. Applicants for a CAC I must complete 1,000 hours of work under such supervision after successfully finishing the mandatory coursework. Completion of these hours may not occur in less than six months.

Fill out the Colorado application for addiction counselor certification which you obtained in Step 1. Make certain to have all required documentation for the necessary 1,000 therapeutic hours along with signatures from supervising counselors. In addition, attach any transcripts which prove your completion of the mandatory coursework. Carefully proofread your application before enclosing the fee and mailing the application to the Colorado Division of Registrations.

Colorado mandates substance abuse counseling certification applicants take a mail-in jurisprudence examination after turning in the certification application. Applicants may download the exam online at the Colorado Deparment of Registrations website. Applicants must pass the exam with a score of 80 percent or better. Required certification coursework covers the material presented in the exam. The exam focuses on ethical counseling practices and Colorado regulations for providing psychotherapy.


Allow ten days before calling and asking about the status of your application.