It’s no question that 2020 is and continues to be a stressful year. We all are balancing work and life responsibilities in unprecedented times, and many are turning to alcohol and other drugs. According to a September 2020 report in the JAMA Network Open journal, U.S. adults say they are drinking 14% more to cope with the global pandemic, job loss, and overall uncertainty. Specifically in Wisconsin, drug overdose deaths continue to rise each year.
Now more than ever, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and other behavioral health professionals are needed to provide resources and support to those struggling with substance use disorders. The UW-Madison Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program, offered through the UW Flexible Option, provides the 360 hours of specialized education that are a stepping stone toward earning a substance abuse counseling license. There are many additional steps outside of completing an educational certification program like ours, and frankly, it can be a confusing process.
With this in mind, we put together this guide to help you navigate the State of Wisconsin’s licensing process. The following information is consolidated from the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).
Please note that these requirements and processes are subject to change, so check the Wisconsin DSPS website for up-to-date information. This guide is not a replacement for official guidance by DSPS—it’s intended to help point you in the right direction.
Substance Abuse Counselor in Training (SAC-IT)
Completing the SAC-IT license is the first step for anyone who wants to pursue Substance Abuse Counselor (SAC), Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor (C-SAC), or other advanced substance abuse counseling licenses.
To acquire the SAC-IT, you must:
- Complete SAC-IT pre-credential education, as outlined by the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).
–The UW Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program fulfills the 100-hour educational requirement for the SAC-IT.
- Provide evidence of current employment or offer of employment, internship, or volunteer agreement at a certified volunteer site that provides substance use disorder treatment.
- Submit the DSPS “Application for Substance Abuse Counselor in Training” and pay the required fee.
- Pass the Statues & Administrative Code Exam.
*Note: Obtaining the SAC-IT license does not allow you to begin practicing substance use disorder counseling independently. Instead, it allows you to start accumulating the required substance use disorder counseling hours under the direction of a licensed clinical supervisor needed to complete Substance Abuse Counselor (SAC) license.
Tip! For those who are current social workers, counselors, or other behavioral health professionals, you may be able to use your current employment to obtain the supervised hours (provided that your agency meets state requirements and you submit the paperwork). However, if you’re not currently employed in a setting that would meet the state requirement, pay special attention to the SAC-IT requirement outlined by Form #2770. You are required to provide proof of supervision before you can get the SAC-IT, even if you finished your educational hours.
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Substance Abuse Counselor (SAC)
Obtaining the SAC license is the next step after completing the SAC-IT license (see above). For most professionals, the SAC is the primary license to expand your scope of practice to help address issues with substance abuse in their community. The SAC designates you as a licensed substance abuse counselor who is eligible to work in various substance use disorders intervention and treatment settings in Wisconsin.
To acquire the SAC, you must:
- Complete 360 hours of specialized education in substance use disorders through a state pre-approved program.
–The UW Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program fulfills this 360-hour specialized educational requirement for Wisconsin-based substance abuse counselors.
- Submit the DSPS “Application for Substance Abuse Counselor,” including required documentation and pay the application fee.
- Pass the National Certified Addiction Counselor I (NCAC I) exam, which is certified through the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) examination.
- Pass the open-book Wisconsin Statutes and Administration Code exam.
*Note: You will already have taken this exam for the SAC-IT license.
- Submit verified completion of 3,000 hours of work experience performing the eight practice dimensions of a Substance Abuse Counselor as outlined by Wisconsin DSPS.
–Hours of work experience must be supervised in accordance with Wisconsin DSPS Form #2749 Affidavit Regarding Supervised Experience.
–Hours must be completed within the five years immediately preceding your SAC application.
–3,000 hours must break down as the following:
–1,000 hours in substance use disorder counseling with at least 500 of those hours in a one-on-one individual setting.
–A minimum of 200 hours of counseling during the 12 month period immediately preceding the date of application, of which 100 hours must be completed within an individual modality setting.
*Note: For more information, refer to the Wisconsin DSPS Substance Abuse Counselor page.
Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor (C-SAC) and Advanced Practice Social Worker (APSW)
After earning the Substance Abuse in Training (SAC-IT) and Substance Abuse Counselor (SAC) licenses, you may wish to continue on to higher-level licensing, which require more supervised counseling hours and, in some cases, advanced degrees. These pathways include Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor (C-SAC), Advanced Practice Social Worker-Substance Abuse Specialty (APSW), and others.
The 100% online UW-Madison Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate is a state pre-approved program that covers the pre-credential educational requirements for the SAC-IT (100 hours) and SAC (360 hours) licenses.
Completion of this program is just your first step on the path to licensure. You’ll still need to complete your required exams, submit your application and fee, and complete your supervised hours (none of which take place within this certificate). These supervised hours are contingent on your place of employment or through a certified volunteer site.
Designed to be completed in 24 weeks or less, the UW-Madison Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate—offered through the UW Flexible Option—is a self-paced, competency-based learning program. This means that you can expand on your existing knowledge and work experience to help you move through the program at a pace that fits your schedule. It’s ideal for current behavioral and mental health professionals looking to more rapidly expand their scope of practice.
Interested in learning more? Contact a helpful enrollment adviser by calling 608-262-2011 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.