Substance Abuse Counselor Certification Virginia

How To Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Virginia

Are you interested in learning how to become a substance abuse counselor in Virginia? Read on to find out how to become a certified and licensed counselor in Virginia. Substance abuse counselors within the state are licensed by the Virginia Board of Counseling. The Board offers 3 different certifications. These are the Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Assistant (CSAC-A), Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC), and Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner (LSATP).

Degree Requirements & Education

CSAC-As do not have to hold a degree. CSAC-As do have to have achieved at least a high school diploma or GED. CSACs will be required to have obtained a Bachelor’s Degree. LSATPs must have a graduate degree. All transcripts should be mailed or emailed directly to the Board from the educational institution.

All applicants will have to have completed courses in these areas:

    1. Dynamics of human behavior;
    2. Signs and symptoms of substance abuse;
    3. Counseling theories and techniques;
    4. Continuum of care and case management skills;
    5. Recovery process and relapse prevention models;
    6. Professional orientation and ethics;
    7. Cultural competency;
    8. Trauma and crisis intervention;
    9. Pharmacology of abused substances
    10. Co-occurring disorders;
    11. Substance abuse counseling approaches and treatment planning;
    12. Group counseling; and Prevention, screening, and assessment of substance use and abuse
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All applicants will be required to provide proof of completion of the required hours. This can be satisfied with transcripts of certificates of completion. CSAC-As are required to complete 120 clock hours of training, with at least 8 hours in each of the 13 above listed areas. CSACs must complete 240 hours, with at least 16 clock hours in each of the above listed areas. 120 of those hours must be completed before supervision registration.

Work Experience Requirements & Supervision

The CSAC-A certification requires that applicants complete 180 hours of substance abuse counseling work experience. At least 8 of these hours must be under direct supervision while providing counseling to a client. The CSAC applicants are required to complete 2,000 hours of work experience. 100 hours must be completed under direct supervision while providing counseling to a client. Only 50 hours may be group supervision hours while the other 50 must be individual supervision. The supervised experience must be completed between 12 and 60 months. The LSATP will need to complete 4,000 hours of work experience.

A qualified supervisor must be a LSATP, LPC, LCP, LCSW, LMFT, MD, or RN. If the supervisor has been a CSAC for at least 2 years in Virginia they may qualify. There is a $65 supervision registration fee. To change supervision contracts, there is a $30 fee. The formal review for the supervision contract change may take up to 15 days to be approved.


Applicants may apply online or by paper application. Applications may not be faxed or photocopies. Those who choose to apply online may do so here: Online Application. If the applicant does not have an account they must register and make one. The CSAC-A and CSAC applicants will need to pay an application fee of $115. The LSATP license has an application fee of $140. The check should be made to the “Treasurer of Virginia.”

After application the Board will send the applicant an email letting them know if their application has been approved or not. Upon approval the Board will inform the applicant and advise them on setting up a time and date to take the required exam.

If the applicant has any kind of criminal background, the applicant will be responsible for providing court documents to the Board. These documents should explain the nature of the crime, whether any requirements have been met, etc. The applicant should also provide a written letter to the Board explaining what events led to the said crime and how it all came about. The Board will consider the circumstances before making a decision regarding the approval of the application. If the conviction is not available in court records, the applicant must undergo a criminal background investigation conducted by the Virginia State Police.

Applications should be reviewed within 7-10 business days after they are received by the Board. Please allow the Board 30 days to review the application once every document and form have been received.


CSAC-A applicants will take the Virginia State Constructed CSAC-A exam. This exam is open book. Applicants are encouraged to review the Regulations Governing the Certification of Substance Abuse Counselors and Substance Abuse Counseling Assistants. The other applicants will be taking exams administered by the National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). The CSAC credential will require the applicant to take and pass the NCAC-I Exam. There is an exam fee of $150. The LSATP applicant must take the MAC Exam. It should take the Board 2-4 weeks to receive test results.

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Every certification and license must be renewed annually. Renewal must be done on or before June 30th each year. Each year the counselor will need to complete 10 hours of continuing education.