How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Florida

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What is Addiction Counseling?


An addiction counselor is a mental health professional who works exclusively with those who suffer from substance abuse disorders, also known as addiction. While the nation is being ravaged by opioid addictions, addiction counselors also help those who are addicted to alcohol, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines. Most addiction counselors find work in rehabilitation centers, where they help their clients overcome the problems that led to the addictive behaviors, as well as the addiction itself.

Since addiction counselors work under a range of licenses, their work can vary. Some may have master’s degrees and thus will work with clients one-on-one in psychotherapy sessions. Others may only have a bachelor’s degree, or less, so may work with clients in a more classroom-like setting or in group therapy sessions. However, some states may license those with bachelor’s degrees to conduct therapy but under close supervision. In Florida, addictions counselors may work as certified addictions professionals (CAP), which requires a bachelor’s degree, a certified addictions counselor (CAC), which requires a high school diploma, or a master's level certified addiction professional (MCAP).


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Addiction Counseling Education in Florida

Florida, like much of the nation, has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic. While the problem may currently be in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still ravaging communities all across the Sunshine State. In fact, it may be both fueling and fueled by the COVID pandemic as addicts who are locked down or separated from family have an even harder time avoiding their substance of choice.

The state is thus in need of addiction counselors who can help the state's citizens achieve sobriety and become free of the alcohol or drugs that have entrapped them. The state's certifying agencies have responded by creating certifications for professionals at three levels. With this liberal approach to licensure, professionals can enter the field and work in a drug rehabilitation with only a high school diploma, provided that they can satisfy the other requirements.

Florida's colleges and universities are also responding with degree programs that will help students begin careers in addiction counseling. When people complete these programs, they are better prepared to pass the state licensure requirements and will also be more likely to find satisfaction in their jobs. After completing even an associate addiction counseling degree program, students will be capable of being more certain that this will be the career path for them. After all, working with addicts is a very demanding endeavor.

As Florida's addiction counselors move up in their level of academic achievement, they can also elevate their licenses. With a bachelor's degree in addiction counseling or a degree in a comparable field, Florida's students can apply for licensure at that level. The state bestows the certified addiction professional (CAP) licensure on those with bachelor's degrees. From that point, Florida's mental health professionals who earn a master's degree in addiction counseling, clinical psychology, or even clinical social work, among other fields, can earn MCAP credentials. These master's level certified addiction professionals can provide even more services to those who suffer addiction to alcohol, opioids, or amphetamines, and other toxins.

Florida is a great state to become an addiction counselor. Their multi-tiered licensing scheme offers opportunities for those who want to help their fellow Floridians recover from a sometimes hopeless seeming condition.


Florida addiction counselors can operate with any level of degree. The state starts its licensure process with a high school diploma, or an equivalency degree (GED). Florida's CAC license can be achieved by anyone but it's probably the best choice for those with an associate degree in addiction counseling. That's because a two-year degree will provide more knowledge in the field, which help with both the examination and that all-important first job.

After the CAC, Florida's addiction counselors have two more licensure levels to attain, if they so choose. For those who earn a bachelor's degree and also meet other requirements, including successfully passing the state exam, there's the certified addiction professional license (CAP). Note that students don't necessarily have to have a bachelor's degree in addiction counseling. Florida will confer a CAP to anyone with a degree related to addiction counseling. Generally speaking, any degree in the health or mental health realm will suffice.

For the master's level certification, known in Florida as the master's level certified addiction professional (MCAP), the educational requirements are still broad, but are more specific. That is, each MCAP should have a master's degree specific to counseling, clinical psychology, or clinical social work.

Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

Floridians who want to get an early start on a career in mental health can launch into addictions counseling with a CAC license. This license only requires a high school diploma or the equivalent, but an associate addiction counseling degree will take them much farther. These days, community colleges have degree programs dedicated to addressing the addiction crisis in their area. This specialized degree will certainly help graduates land better jobs with better pay than if they only had a high school diploma.

An associate addiction counseling degree is also a smart move for those who aspire to higher licensing levels. The two-year degree will provide the core college curriculum they need to move into a four-year college or Florida university. On top of that, these programs provide a firm foundation in psychology and addictions counseling that will come in handy on the job. Finally, since community college credits are much cheaper than those in four-year schools, community college students will see a great savings in their first years.

Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

Those undergraduate students who earn a degree in a field related to addictions counseling can consider working toward licensure as a certified addiction professional. This is perhaps the optimal academic level at which to enter the field of addiction counseling. A bachelor's degree allows students the time to fully explore a topic and to learn more about what they want from a career and how they would like to achieve that.

Students can use their bachelor's degree to earn a CAP credential and then work for a few years in the field as a way to determine whether they would like to invest in a master's degree, and which degree is best for them. Their bachelor's degree and subsequent experience in the addiction counseling field should enable them to decide whether to pursue a master of social work, a master's in addiction counseling, or a master's degree in clinical psychology.

Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

This level of academic achievement is enough to qualify an addiction professional for Florida's top addiction counseling credential, the master's level certified addiction professional (MCAP). While many will earn a master's degree in addiction counseling, that is not a necessity. The MCAP is available to professionals with a wide range of degrees.

In Florida, MCAPs can have master's degrees such as those in clinical psychology, clinical social work, or divinity with a concentration in counseling, among others. While the state maintains a list of accepted master's degrees, it might be possible for those whose graduate degrees fall outside of that group may still petition to sit for the examination. For instance, those who have master's degrees in occupational therapy may be able to take additional courses and thus satisfy the Florida Certification Board. Students should keep in mind that any master's degree should be from a fully accredited institution recognized by the Florida Board.

PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

The top degree in any field is a PhD. For addiction counseling, this level of academic achievement is not necessary. Professionals in addiction counseling who achieve a PhD will not need the degree to earn any higher level of state licensure beyond the master's level certified addiction professional (MCAP). However, a doctorate can still be of great use in the field.

That is, those who achieve a PhD in counseling psychology can still work with people who suffer with substance abuse disorder. In fact, their primary academic research could be in addictions. However, their licensure could be more general and thus allow greater flexibility in the clientele they serve. Those with a PhD can also charge more for their services and may have other opportunities available to them as well.

A PhD with a focus on addictions could be very helpful for those who stay in the field of addiction therapy. They could helm a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility since their credentials will engender trust and respect.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Florida


To become an addiction counselor in Florida, it’s important to first hear the call to the profession. After all, addictions counseling is not like other jobs. These mental health professionals have a workplace that demands everything from them. They must have deep knowledge of psychology, the nature of addiction, counseling methods and theories, as well as other topics such as legal and ethical matters. If that weren't enough, they should also be ready to put themselves on the line. They must have both strong personal boundaries and deep compassion and empathy for the addicts they treat. It's also vital to have a non-judgmental attitude, as many addicts have done some things that many find distasteful.

Therefore, many find the profession to be a calling and a labor of love more than just a way to make a paycheck. Students who are considering the field should thus do some deep soul searching to discover whether or not the field is really for them. For some, they are called to addiction counseling as a result of having achieved sobriety themselves. It is very common for recovered addicts to have a strong desire to help their fellows who are still struggling. There are also those who have seen a friend or loved one achieve sobriety and are thus inspired to join the battle against substance abuse.

Once the personal issues surrounding this career are sorted out, it's vital to earn the credentials necessary to practice in Florida's drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. The first of which, the certified addiction counselor (CAC) designation, only requires a high school diploma (or the equivalent) or an associate degree. Those who earn an associate addiction counseling degree may have an edge over other degrees in terms of both the job search and passing the licensure requirements, including a comprehensive examination.

Other options for starting a career in addiction counseling include earning a bachelor's degree or a master's addiction counseling degree. At these levels, professionals are licensed to work with clients on a deeper level, including one-on-one counseling. It's also worth noting that the degree options are not limited to addiction counseling. At the bachelor's level, students who earn a diploma in virtually any health-related field can qualify for licensure. At the master's level, the allowable degrees are more limited, but can include any degree that involves counseling.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • School Counselor:
    These mental health professionals work in Florida school systems to help students overcome the difficulties that may be holding them back from academic achievement. This career requires a master's degree, most often in education. School counselors should also hold a full teaching license, which their degree programs will prepare them for. Note that school counselors are typically licensed to work with specific age groups, such as elementary aged students, middle grades kids, and high schoolers.
  • Clinical Social Worker:
    For students who wish to become counselors but also want more flexibility in their work life, it can be advantageous to become clinical social workers. That is, with a LCSW credential from the state of Florida, they can work one-on-one with a variety of clients seeking to change their lives, including those who suffer with substance abuse disorder. They can also work with a variety of social work agencies, both in the governmental and non-governmental, or in the non-profit sector.
  • Sports Psychologist:
    For Florida's athletes, a sports psychologist can make the difference between winning and losing. These mental health professionals work with athletes to overcome problems with sports performance. Many who earn bachelor's degrees in the field work as coaches for professional teams or in independent sports centers nationwide.
  • Career Counselor:
    These counselors don't work with their client's deep inner struggles so much as they help students decide on a career and take the necessary steps to achieve it. Career counselors typically work for Florida's colleges and universities. They discuss goals and desires with students while also helping students prepare for on campus job fairs, interviews, and more. They might also reach out to corporations to learn more about internship programs that students may find interesting.
  • Child Counselor:
    This specialty in the mental health field focuses on children, often under the age of around 12. These counselors help children who have been the victim of trauma, abuse, or who simply have poor coping skills. This field can be very demanding for those who are sensitive to the plight of innocent children and some cases may be devastating. To become a child counselor in Florida, students will need a master's degree and state licensure.
  • Adult and Geriatric Counselor:
    These mental health professionals work exclusively with adults and those nearing their sunset years. For counselors in Florida, this specialty may be more in demand than in other states due to the number of people who retire to this sunny locale. The states' popularity with retirees will surely ensure a long and fruitful career working with the so-called snowbirds. While some of these professionals may work in private practice, Florida's retirement communities may also provide ample work opportunities.
  • Group Counselor or Therapist:
    This form of mental health therapy can be a career path all of its own or it can be part of a larger therapy practice. That is, Florida counselors can be trained and licensed especially for this practice, or they can simply form therapeutic groups that focus on a specific issue. Group therapy may also be for clients who may particularly benefit from the sort of peer feedback available in a group therapy session.

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