How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Arizona

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What is Addiction Counseling?


When it comes to substances abuse counselors in Arizona, there is always a high demand for these exceptional mental health practitioners. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arizona is ranked 12th for in the entire country for drug overdose deaths. There are a variety of licensed counseling positions available in Arizona. The three addiction counselor licenses in this state are License Substance Abuse Technician, License Associate Substance Abuse Counselor, and License Independent Substance Abuse Counselor. These addiction counselor licenses are offered through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners.

As of May 2020, Arizona is one of 15 states that employs the highest number of addiction counselors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Arizona employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is right around 3,140 altogether. As previously mentioned, Arizona offers the following three levels of licensure certification to become an addiction counselor: LSAT, LASAC, and LISAC. The state creates its own rules in deciding what is needed to become licensed as an addiction counselor.


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Addiction Counseling Education in Arizona


Often known as substance abuse counselors and behavior disorder counselors, addiction counselors specialize in helping people who are struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. The overarching goal of these exceptional professionals is to teach clients how to handle everyday life problems and stressful situations without relying on alcohol and drugs to cope. Similar to many medical practitioners, addiction counselors have a variety of responsibilities. The typical duties of an addiction counselor include evaluating clients’ overall wellbeing and destructive behaviors, helping clients eliminate behaviors that impede recovery, discussing a client’s addiction with family members, creating treatment plans, providing clients with essential recovery skills, recommending important resources and services, developing outreach programs, and performing periodic assessments. These professionals can also help clients rebuild relationships with friends and family and reestablish their career.

Addiction counselors can work with a wide variety of clients, from busy professionals and teenagers to veterans and men and women with disabilities. Many of these clients have been ordered by a judge to work with addiction counselors. These professionals can also specialize in crisis and/or non-crisis intervention, and they work with clients one-on-one and in group sessions. Most addiction counselors incorporate the twelve-step program known as Alcohol Anonymous into their treatment plan.

Generally speaking, addiction counselors are employed by the following sectors: government, hospitals, residential facilities, out-patient centers, and individual and family services. These professionals often work alongside social workers, nurses, doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists.

Arizona requires aspiring addiction counselors to hold various degrees depending on the license they are hoping to earn. In order to qualify for many addiction counseling positions such as a LSAT and LASAC, you’ll need at least an associate and/or bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree is highly recommended for those who would like to work independently as a LISAC, providing private one-on-one counseling sessions. A PhD degree prepares you for a rewarding career in research, education, and addiction counseling.

Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

An associate’s in addiction counseling degree provides an introduction to a career as an addiction counselor. During an associate degree program, you’ll learn the basics of addiction counseling including chemical dependency treatment, family therapy, and much more. Students may take the following courses: Theories of Counseling, Counseling Therapy, Family and Group Counseling, Crisis Intervention, and others.

After earning an associate in addiction counseling degree, you’ll be able to obtain a variety of entry-level positions such as addiction recovery support specialist in Arizona.

Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s in addiction counseling degree will provide an in-depth overview of clinical mental health counseling with an emphasis in substance abuse. Here are some of the courses in this bachelor’s counseling degree program: Substance Abuse Prevention & Treatment, Counseling in a Diverse Society, Counseling Psychology, Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, and Foundations of Addiction and Substance Use Disorders. With a bachelor’s in addiction counseling degree, you’ll qualify for a number of positions including as a psychiatric technician, rehabilitation counselor, health educator/community health workers, addiction counselor, or school and career counselors.

Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS or MC)

A master’s addiction counseling degree program is specifically designed to teach students virtually everything that they need to know about addiction counseling, from the physiology of addiction to the social effects of addiction. A master’s counseling degree program may include courses such as Orientation to Addiction, Counseling Theory, and Building Your Ideal Private Practice.

When you graduate for this program, you’ll be prepared to work independently as a fully licensed counselor. You will be able to work in an addiction recovery facility or open your own practice.

PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

A PhD or doctorate degree is the perfect option if you want to obtain a career in addiction counseling psychology research or clinical services. In these types of programs, students will enroll in courses like Behavioral Neuroscience and Drug Addiction and Psychoneuroimmunology. Depending on the program, you may have to complete a doctoral practicum that consists of over 90 hours in addiction counseling.

A PhD/Doctorate degree will definitely prepare students for a teaching or research position at a prominent university or research center. If you want to practice as a psychologist who specializes in addiction counseling, you will need obtain licensure through the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners. You will be granted a license once you exceed many state-specific requirements such as a PhD/Doctorate degree, supervised counseling experience, and passing a national exam.

Top College Programs in Arizona for Counseling

  • Arizona State University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • University of Arizona
  • Prescott College
  • Grand Canyon University

Become an Addiction Counselor in Arizona


  • Graduate from High School

    Arizona requires addiction counselors to hold a high school diploma. While you’re working toward obtaining a high school diploma, you can prepare for a career as an exceptional addiction counselor by being a volunteer at community organizations and crisis centers.

  • Obtain A College Degree

    In order to become an addiction counselor in Arizona, you’ll need to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD/Doctorate counseling degree. The best schools will offer addiction counseling degree programs that have received certification from the NASAC and NAADAC. Some schools in Arizona are in the process of receiving this certification.

  • Seek Industry Certification

    Arizona State University offers a graduate certificate in Addiction and Substance-Use Related Disorders. The certificate will provide the basic educational content requirement and skills for students to pursue licensure in Arizona. Students enrolled in this certificate program may complete courses in Psychopharmacology, Comorbidity in Substance Use Related Problems, and Group Therapy for Substance Use Related Problems. Students will also have to take an ethics course.

    By the completion of this program, you’ll know exactly how to treat people with co-occurring disorders and implement measures to solve the opioid crisis. In order to qualify for this program, you must hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD/Doctorate degree in a counseling related field. The application consists of a personal statement, letter of recommendation, official transcripts, and TOEFL score. The Arizona Board for Certification of Addiction Counselors also offers a certification to become a substance abuse counselor, though at a lower level than a degree will allow; you just need to fill out an application and pass an exam.

  • Complete Requirements for Arizona Licensure

    The Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners offers three licenses for aspiring addition counselors.

    • Licensed Substance Abuse Technician
      For those who would like to enter the addiction counseling field, becoming a Licensed Substance Abuse Technician or LSAT is a great starting point. To become a Licensed Substance Abuse Technician, you’ll need to hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in behavioral health science. These degrees must be received from a regionally accredited college or university. You will also need to pass a licensure exam from the NBCC, IC&RC, or NAADAC. Per each year, you are allowed two attempts. The IC&RC provides several practice exams to help you prepare. As you are applying for this license, you will also have to undergo a fingerprint clearance.
    • Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor
      When you’re already an LSAT, you can then work towards becoming a Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor or LASAC. The applicant must have a bachelor’s degree in behavioral health science. The bachelor’s degree must be from a regionally accredited school. In addition, you’ll need to present documentation of working in the substance abuse counseling field under supervision for at least 3,200 hours. Lastly, you will need to pass an exam approved by the AZBBHE.
    • Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor
      A Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor or LISAC is for those who would like to obtain the highest level of certification as an addiction counselor. When you become a LISAC, you can work as an addiction counselor without a supervisor. Before applying for this license, you’ll want to obtain a master’s or higher degree in behavioral health science. You will also need to have documentation of working in the addiction counseling field under supervision for at least 3,200 hours. You must pass an exam that has been approved by the AZBBHE in order to gain these credentials.
  • Join Addiction Counseling Professional Organizations

    Students who would like to be a competitive job applicant should consider joining some of the following organizations: APA Student Affiliate Membership, NAADAC Student Membership, IAAOC Graduate Student Membership, ASAM Student Membership, and AAAP Free Medical Student Membership.

    For current addiction counselors who would like to advance in their field, there are some great professional organizations to join: The American Counseling Association, The Association for Addiction Professionals, and The American Mental Health Counselors Association.

    If you are a master level addiction counselor or higher, you might consider joining The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, The International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, or the Division 50: Society of Addiction Psychology.

Counseling Careers


  • Substance Abuse Counselor:
    Known as a counseling professional, an addictions support assists people struggling with addiction on their path to recovery. These professionals typically work closely with licensed addiction counselors.
  • Group Therapist:
    A group therapist is a mental health practitioner who treats a group of roughly 15 people. This professional can health people address a wide variety of issues such as addition, depression, and isolation. The best group therapists compile the right group, informs group members of expectations, and gets everyone connected.
  • Rehab Facility Addictions Counselor:
    A rehab facility addictions counselor advises alcohol and drug addicts who are admitted to a rehab facility. This professional may be expected to perform substance abuse evaluations, help clients developed healthy coping strategies, facilitate group sessions, and much more.
  • Residential Counselor:
    Residential counselors are expected to offer mental and emotional support to people who reside in rehabilitation centers, shelters, and assisted living facilities. They may create programs that offer optimal guidance, help residents with activities of daily living, perform regular assessments, and resolve resident problems with counseling.
  • Mental Health Counselor:
    The primary responsibility of a mental health counselor is to support people’s mental and emotional health. These professionals can help clients learn about mental health conditions, identify their feelings, support a healthy lifestyle, and deal with problematic patterns.
  • Grief Counselor:
    As the title implies, a grief counselor is a professional who helps people deal with the loss of a loved one, pet, and even a job. A grief counselor can assist clients with expressing their emotions in healthy ways, creating a strong support system, addressing feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and loneliness, developing positive future plans.
  • Behavioral Therapist:
    The main role of a behavioral therapist is to assist clients with eliminating or controlling unwanted behaviors. These professionals strive to replace these unwanted behaviors with much healthier ones. In order to accomplish this goal, behavior therapists may rely on aversion therapy, positive reinforcement, and operate conditioning.

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