How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Hawaii

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Addiction counseling is an important field of study for every state, including the state of Hawaii. Like other states and progressive governments around the world, Hawaii has a compelling interest in preventing and treating substance abuse and addictions. As a desirable resort and vacation destination, Hawaii offers remarkable weather, sunshine, and a separation from familiar environments for nearly all visitors. These climate and weather condition also make Hawaii a home to some highly regarded private addiction treatment facilities.

Addiction counselors work with individuals suffering from alcohol or drug dependencies and behavioral disorders. Counselors provide treatment and support with a goal of recovery defined as being free of a drug or alcohol dependency. Addiction counselors must have extensive training in the development and consequences of drug and alcohol abuse and apply their knowledge to evaluate clients, assess their needs, and develop a plan for recovery.

Counselors are essential to a client’s support system. Counselors must also collaborate with the client’s family, friends, and other close social contacts. A client might respond best when family and friends join the treatment plan and provide reinforcement and support outside of the counseling settings. To fully assist clients, counselors must often work in group settings, with client’s family members or other individuals close to them.

A counselor’s client base can be broad or specific. They might specialize in a particular population group such as veterans, teenagers, or older people. The success rate among persons receiving treatment can be low; clients frequently relapse and require long-terms of counseling engagement. With experience, counselors develop greater levels of skills in evaluation, assessment, and treatment planning.


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Addiction Counseling Education in Hawaii


The Hawaii government takes an active role in education, prevention, and treatment of addiction. Students can pursue an addiction counseling degree in Hawaii at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels. The area offers public and private sector opportunities for mental health counselors and substance abuse counseling.

Students have a range of pathways to become an addiction counselor in Hawaii. A quick look at the best addiction counseling schools in Hawaii and the requirements for addiction counselors in the state shows the importance of advanced education. Students can begin with a two or four-year degree in counseling. Graduates of four-year programs can advance to a Master of Arts in Counseling and continue further and specialize through studies for a doctoral degree. Students must complete course requirements and perform work in a clinical setting.

As member of the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Inc. (known as the IC&RC/AODA), the Hawaii government applies internationally recognized standards and education requirements for professional training and certification. Applicants must pass the IC&RC/AODA Certification Examination for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors.

The Hawaii government certifies individuals as substance abuse counselors and substance abuse program administrators through state-specific professional licensure requirements. The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional and Vocational Licensing Division (PVL) assesses qualifications and issues licenses for mental health counselors.

The high school diploma or GED is the minimum level of formal education that supports CSAC certification. When combined with up to 6,000 hours of clinical training, applicants can qualify for the CSAC certification process. Hawaii also requires examinations and demonstrated ability to work in the field. Educational achievement can substantially reduce the need for demonstrated experience. Hawaii may credit a drug or alcohol certificate program as 2,000 clock hours of training.

College education can increase the level of opportunities and reduce the time required to enter the profession. Students should check to ensure their graduate program has accreditation. The CACREP (The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) is a worldwide specialized accreditation service for master’s and doctoral degree programs in counseling at colleges and universities. CACREP or other widely recognized accreditation will enhance the student’s value of education in the job market and for further education.

In Hawaii, employers tend to prefer applicants with college education. The level of salary, responsibility, and challenge in addiction counseling grows with the applicant’s education level. The types of degrees and amount of experience can open opportunities for employment and career advancement.

Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

Students can attend on-campus, online, or a hybrid to achieve an associate degree in addiction counseling. A two-year program typically requires about sixty credit hours of coursework. Students majoring in addiction counseling, or a closely related field can focus their course selections. Hawaii colleges may offer opportunities for clinical training or counseling assistant training. Firsthand education in clinical settings can advance a student’s understanding of the role of addiction counselor immensely.

An associate degree can open doors to assistant roles, internships, and other opportunities to gain experience on the job. An associate degree supports certification in Hawaii for students that can meet the overall requirement of 6,000 hours of experience, specific coursework, and supervised training. An associate degree is also useful as a step toward further education as it can prepare students to complete a four-year degree and it can provide time and space for students to refine their educational goals.

Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s degree is a typical entry level degree for the field of addiction counseling. The degree typically requires four years of on-campus or online attendance. Programs that offer clinical experience may take more time to complete. Students can add coursework to help focus on specific types of addictions, particular population groups, or types of practice such as group therapy.

In Hawaii, graduates with a bachelor’s degree can reduce the amount of required clinical training by about 2,000 clock hours. The reduction from 6,000 clock hours to 4,000 clock hours can significantly increase access to jobs and advanced career opportunities. The leading programs in Hawaii offer opportunities for clinical education in which students can learn by performing counseling tasks.

A bachelor’s degree can qualify students for further education and development at the graduate level. A master’s degree can provide a basis for specialization and expertise.

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

Bachelor degree holders in a related field can study and achieve a master’s degree in addiction counseling. The master’s degree is a valuable educational credential in the field of addiction counseling as the trend among public and private employers is to prefer candidates with master’s degrees.

A master’s degree supports a higher level of independence than a bachelor’s degree. As with the bachelor’s degree, the state of Hawaii can credit up to 2,000 clock hours toward the 6,000 hour requirement for supervised clinical education. A master’s degree is a one-to-two-year program, depending on the extent of required clinical work. For example, programs that require a one-year internship would require two years for completion. Students should check and determine the program’s accreditation. Employers and academic institutions regard CACREP accreditation as a sign of quality education; CACREP has formal recognition by the US Department of Education.

Certified Co-Occurring Disorders Professional-Diplomate designation requires a graduate degree. The CCDP-D designate must first obtain a master’s or doctoral degree. Treating the co-occurrence of alcoholism and other dependency and mental disorders requires specialized clinical mental health counseling requirements.

PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

A PhD in Addiction Counseling opens a wide range of jobs and career options. A doctoral level degree opens opportunities in higher education as colleges and universities need PhDs to teach in undergraduate and graduate departments. A doctoral level degree can support specialization and expertise in one or more aspects of addiction counseling.

The doctoral level is appropriate for administrators, leadership, and policy making roles. Hawaii’s doctoral programs also aim to produce leading researchers in the field. The expansion of substance abuse in the US and in countries around the globe reflects growing recognition of the scope of the problem. The US Department of labor projects higher than average growth for the field over the period of 2020 to 2030.

Students should still look for high-level accreditation in the doctoral programs they consider. For example, CACREP accreditation is widely regarded as a sign of quality education; the US Department of Education, employers, and academic institutions accept CAREP accreditation.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Hawaii


Education is an excellent pathway to a career in addiction counseling in Hawaii. The Certified Substance Abuse Counselor certification requires extensive clinical experience. The overall requirements for training and experience include about 6,000 hours of supervised counseling under direction of an active CSAC in good standing. Educational achievement can substitute for and reduce the amount of time and study needed for certification.

The state of Hawaii offers certification as Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC). Certification requires educational achievement, training, and supervised counseling experience. The minimum education and experience levels can open entry-level career opportunities. Most counseling positions and substance abuse employers will ask for higher levels.

A high school diploma or GED is the minimum education requirement for the CSAC. Advanced degrees open more potential opportunities. Applicants must have a minimum of 270 hours of addiction counseling education approved by the ADAD in the below-listed required categories.

  • Professional Responsibility including six hours of professional Ethics and Issues
  • Counseling that includes required HIV and STD awareness, and client confidentiality, as well as multicultural competency
  • Case Management
  • Client education and Assessment

Certification requires four hundred hours in the 12 Core Functions that consists of 20 or more hours in each function: orientation, intake, screening, assessment. Students must complete hours in treatment planning, counseling, and case management and applicants must study client education. Certified counselors must manage administrative processes of reports, record keeping, and referral. The requirements also include standards and methods for crisis intervention and consultation.

Certification standards include the four-hundred-hour training requirement within the overall 6,000 hours of experience. A CSAC in good standing must provide qualifying clinical supervised experience. The below-listed educational achievement can reduce the required number of supervised hours below the 6,000 level.

  • An Associate degree in Addiction Counseling reduces supervised counseling to 4,000 hours.
  • A Bachelor’s degree in a Human Services or Behavioral Science related field reduces supervised counseling to 4,000 hours.
  • A Master’s degree in a Human Services or Behavioral Science related field reduces supervised counseling to 2,000 hours.

Hawaii requires that applicants (1) pass the International Written Certification Examination for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, (2) and the Case Presentation Method Oral Examination, and (3) sign the CSAC Code of Ethics.

Once certified, professionals must maintain good standing by completing the required hours of continuing education. The term of approval is two years and certificate holders must complete 20 hours of study per year. The continuing education requirements vary by type of certificate. The eligible coursework includes diversity, cultural diversity, and human services. Hawaii encourages certificate holders to take a large number of alcohol and drug abuse studies.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


An addiction counselor degree aids in accessing well-paid employment opportunities. Counselors work in a wide range of settings including outpatient mental health clinics, in-patient and residential care facilities, and public services facilities. Hawaii, like other states, uses treatment and counseling services for drug offenders in the criminal justice system. Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is a more productive and cost-efficient method than criminal penalties.

  • School Counselors
    School counselors provide guidance and support for students and families in academic settings. These counselors can help resolve issues and promote a successful learning environment. Addiction counseling is an excellent background degree for school counselors. Addiction counseling emphasizes listening, communications, and working with individuals, groups, and families.
  • Clinical Social Workers
    Clinical social workers provide direct services to individuals with a range of disorders, dependencies, and behavioral matters. Addiction counseling is a supportive educational background; graduates learn to evaluate and assess disorders and develop treatment plans. Addiction counseling teaches the record-keeping process; records are essential elements of successful social work including referrals.
  • Organizational Counselors
    Organizational counselors operate in a setting defined by a business, or public organization. Organizational counselors contribute to efficient operations and achieving goals by helping to manage human resources. Employees and other organization members can get help with stress, personal issues, and work situations.
  • Adult and Geriatric Counselors
    Adult and geriatric counselors specialize in treating younger and older adults. These special populations have characteristics and issues that set them apart from the general population and particularly children and teens. Geriatric and adult counselors often deal with issues related to aging. They must work with people that may be near the end of life as well as people in mid-life situations. Addiction counseling education emphasize important skills like listening, evaluation, and individualized treatment plans.
  • Child Counselors
    Child counselors offer specialized approaches aimed at the age and experience levels of children. Like adults and teens, children must also manage stressful situations and resolve conflicts as they learn and grow. A behavioral issue may have roots in stress and misunderstandings that counselors can help resolve. Children are a unique population of clients and child counselors develop assessment, evaluation, and treatment techniques for the circumstances.
  • College Counselors
    College counselors work with college age populations that have increasingly grown broader as more older students engage in college learning. The work of college counselors involves the stresses and difficulties of adjusting to college for young and older students. College counselors provide benefits such as improved mental health, higher retention rates, and preventing potentially more complicated situations and outcomes.
  • Group Counselor or Therapist
    Group counselors and therapists offer different types of therapy to resolve issues and disruptive conduct. A counselor might reach for resolving short-term issues, while a therapist might approach the deeper levels of root causes. A group setting provides peer support and reinforcement. Group therapy can consist of five to fifteen people with scheduled meeting times. The sessions offer non-judgmental situations in which people can express and reflect with others and the therapist or counselor.
  • Mental Health Counselors
    Mental health counselors offer support and continuing care to patients with mental health issues that include depression, anxiety, and addictions. Even mild cases can have a significant impact on a person’s life and career. Mental health counselors work to discover causes and develop successful coping mechanisms. Successful mental health counseling can restore balance and well-being.
  • Behavioral Therapists
    Behavioral therapists work with clients and their mental health issues. For example, they may help people with emotional issues like phobias, anxiety, and addictions. Behavioral therapy may also focus on a specific part of the population. They identify disorders and attempt to find specific or general causal relationships. Therapists achieve successful outcomes by addressing the underlying causes of the mental health disorders.

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