Substance Abuse Counseling Certification in California

California has four main levels of certification as well as two levels that are trainee level and not required for actual certification and/or licensure and will not be covered in this article. The four levels are known as: the Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor Associate (CADCA), Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor I (CADC-I), Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor II (CADC-II) and the Licensed Advanced Alcohol Drug Counselor (LAADC). The first three levels require the completion of education as well as a practicum and supervised experience. The LAADC level requires a Master’s degree in a Behavioral Science if from another state, or a combination of a degree as well as supervised experience. The LAADC is a non-governmental license that provides some benefits but is not required to practice in California.

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You will need to complete the following steps to become certified in California:

  1. Earn an Associate’s, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in a Behavioral Science field with Counseling or Addiction Counseling greatly preferred. Other degrees that are acceptable for the lower level of certification are: Social Work, Sociology, Human Services or Psychology.
  2. Complete a practicum.
  3. Earn sufficient supervised work experience.
  4. Pass a written examination.
  5. Apply for certification with the California Commission for Behavioral Health Certification.

CA Substance Abuse Counselor Educational Requirements

You will need the following education in California:

  • 315 hours of approved education from a CAADAC approved institution of higher learning.


You will need to complete a practicum for all levels of licensure.

  • You will need a 255 hour practicum that is approved by the CAADAC.

Supervised Experience

  • Supervised experience is where the different levels of certification/licensure have differing requirements.
  • Before accruing experience you will need to pass a criminal background check.
  • At the CADCA level you will not need any supervised experience as this is the intro level.
  • At the CADC-I level you will need 4,000 of supervised work experience providing Alcohol and Drug counseling to clients under supervision.
  • At the CADC-II level you will need 6,000 hours of supervised work experience providing Alcohol and Drug counseling to clients under supervision
  • At the LAADC level you will need 10,000 hours if you do not have a degree.
  • For the LAADC if you have an AA degree this is reduced to 6,000 hours.
  • If you have your Bachelor’s degree it is reduced to 4,000 hours.
  • If you are applying for reciprocal status and have a Master’s degree you will not be required to have any supervised experience.

Written Examination

California has an examination requirement for all levels of certification.

  • Pass the ICRC written examination.

Apply for Your Certification

You are now eligible to apply with the Commission for certification.

  • For the CADCA, CADC-I and CADC II levels you will find the application here.
  • For the LAADC Non-Reciprocal Application click here.