Substance Use Disorder Professional - Frequently Asked Questions

How do changes to the Uniform Disciplinary Act affect substance use disorder professionals?

RCW 18.130.175 and RCW 43.43.84 were modified to reduce barriers to licensure for substance use disorder professionals. These changes apply only to applicants for the substance use professional certification.

  • Applicants with one year in recovery from a substance use disorder are not required to enter a monitoring program. Applicants with less than one year may be required to be in a monitoring program only until they achieve one year in recovery.
  • Applicants convicted of a crime identified in RCW 43.43.842 cannot be automatically denied if:
    • One year has passed since the conviction;
    • The offense was committed as a result of their substance use or untreated mental health symptom; and
    • They are at least one in year in recovery from their substance use disorder or in recovery for mental health challenges.
What is the alternative training pathway to certification?

It's for people with one or more of the following Washington state credentials. The credential must be active and in good standing.

  • Licensed advanced registered nurse practitioners
  • Licensed marriage and family therapists
  • Licensed mental health counselors
  • Licensed advanced social workers
  • Licensed independent clinical social workers
  • Psychologists
  • Osteopathic physicians
  • Osteopathic physician assistants
  • Physicians
  • Physician assistants

The alternative pathway includes:

  • Fifteen quarter or 10 semester hours of education in specific topics from an approved school.
  • One thousand hours of experience while under the supervision of a SUDP.
  • Practitioners with specified national certifications (e.g., American Society of Addiction Medicine or American Board of Addiction Medicine) may meet the SUDP educational or experience requirements.
What exam should I take?

The National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) level one or higher is the approved examination in Washington State. Also the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (ICRC), either the Alcohol Drug Counselor (ADC), or the Advanced Alcohol Drug Counselor (AADC) exam is accepted for certification. Note the ICRC exam is not available in Washington State, however it is eligible for individuals licensed in other states where this exam may be required.

What is direct supervision?

Direct supervision means the supervisor is on the premises and available for immediate consultation.

I'm a substance use disorder professional trainee (SUDPT). My renewal and application require me to be enrolled in an approved school or apprenticeship program. What does this mean?

Enrolled means participation in an approved school or apprenticeship program and progressing toward the completion of the course work, or completion of the coursework to be certified as a substance use disorder professional as describe in WAC 246-811-030(2)(a) through (w).

How many supervisees can be included in an individual formal meeting?

An individual formal meeting must have an approved supervisor and no more than four supervisees.

What are considered substance use disorder related fields?

Related fields include: health education, behavioral science, sociology, psychology, marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, social work, psychiatry, nursing, divinity, criminal justice, and counseling education.

I have a master's degree; will I automatically meet the educational requirements for my substance use disorder professional credential?

No, you must review WAC 246-811-030 to review the educational requirements. You must have at least an associate's degree in a related field from an approved school. Of the total education you must have completed at least 45 quarter credit or 30 semester credits of courses related to the substance use disorder profession and must include the topics listed in WAC 246-811-030(2)(a) through (w).

How many years is my SUDPT credential valid?

The trainee credential is valid for one year and must be renewed every year on the date of issuance. You may not renew your credential more than four times (a total of five years). However, if a trainee has not obtained the required hours within the four renewal cycles, other credentialing options may be available based on education level and licensure requirements.

What do I do if I complete five years as a SUDPT but haven't completed my hours?

Depending on the work you do, the facility you work in, your educational level, and licensure requirements, you may qualify for an alternate credential. However, you'll no longer be able to refer to yourself as a SUDPT, to sign using that title, and may not be able to provide substance use counseling.

Is there a limit on the age of the experience gained when applying for my substance use disorder professional certification?

Yes, the Department of Health will accept experience in the field of substance use disorder treatment only up to seven years before the date of the application.

Does the accumulation of experience have to be consecutive?

No. You do not have to accumulate the hours consecutively. Experience that can count towards the certification must meet the requirements outlined in WAC 246-811-046 thru WAC 246-811-049.

How many hours of experience are required for certification as a substance use disorder professional?

You must complete 1,000 to 2,500 hours of supervised experience depending upon your formal education. Please review WAC 246-811-046 and 246-811-047 for more detailed information.

How much of the supervised experience must be under the supervision of an approved supervisor as defined in WAC 246-811-049?

All of the experience must be under the supervision of an approved supervisor.

What services may a SUDPT provide?

A substance use disorder professional trainee may provide substance use disorder assessment, counseling, and case management to patients consistent with his or her education, training, and experience as documented by the approved supervisor.

Do any of the experience hours have to be under the direct supervision of an approved supervisor?

Yes, the first 50 hours of any face-to-face patient contact must be under the direct supervision, and within sight and hearing, of an approved supervisor or a substance use disorder professional.

The approved supervisor or designated certified substance use disorder professional must provide direct supervision when a substance use disorder professional trainee (SUDPT) is providing clinical services to patients until the approved supervisor documents in the employee file that the SUDPT has obtained the necessary education, training, and experience.

Do substance use disorder professionals and substance use disorder professional trainees have to provide clients with disclosure information?

Yes, WAC 246-811-090 requires that substance use disorder professionals and substance use disorder professional trainees must provide disclosure to each client before the delivery of certified services.

What information do I have to include in my disclosure statement?

WAC 246-811-100 details the disclosure statement requirements.

I'm a substance use disorder professional trainee or substance use disorder professional. Do I also need to have the agency-affiliated counselor credential?

People credentialed as a substance use disorder professionals (SUDP) would be exempt from obtaining an additional credential, if they're employing the core competencies of substance use disorder counseling to assist or attempt to assist individuals with substance use disorder in their recovery.

Core competencies of substance use counseling means competency in the nationally recognized knowledge, skills, and attitudes of professional practice, including assessment and diagnosis of substance use disorders, substance use disorder treatment planning and referral, patient and family education in the disease of substance use disorders, individual and group counseling, relapse prevention counseling, and case management, all oriented to assist individuals with substance use disorder in their recovery.

SUDPs practicing only as defined above don't need to obtain an additional credential.

However, SUDPs providing co-occurring treatment services would need to obtain another counseling credential as well.

I'm licensed as a provider in another state. Does that license transfer to Washington State?

See this list to determine if your credential is substantially equivalent. If your credential is substantially equivalent you're not required to complete the examination. You must apply to get a license in Washington State.

How do I apply for Reciprocity as a Substance Use Disorder Professional from another state?

Washington State recognizes substantial equivalency, of substance use disorder professionals from other states, based on scope of practice. If the state where you are currently or have held a license in the past twelve months, has been determined by the department as substantially equivalent, you can apply for a temporary probationary license to work as a Washington State substance use disorder professional through the reciprocity program. The applicant must not have a disciplinary history or disqualifying criminal history to apply for reciprocity and can only work within approved agencies.

How do I determine if my state is equivalent?

The Department maintains a list of approved states that are eligible to apply for a probationary license. This list can be found on the Substance Use Disorder Professionals License Requirements page.

What is the probationary license and how does it work?

The probationary license is a temporary credential issued to an individual who is licensed in another state and applies for reciprocity in Washington. The license is issued for one year and can be renewed one time for another year. The purpose of the probationary license is to allow the holder to seek and accept employment opportunities while the department assess the gap in licensure requirements. Within the time limits provided by the probationary license, applicants will need to meet the full licensure requirements, as a substance use disorder professional or, depending on education level and licensure requirements, consider other available licensure options.

Additionally, anyone who is working under a probationary license can only practice as a Substance Use Disorder Professional in a licensed or certified service provider as defined in RCW 71.24.025

25) "Licensed or certified service provider" means an entity licensed or certified according to this chapter or chapter 71.05 RCW or an entity deemed to meet state minimum standards as a result of accreditation by a recognized behavioral health accrediting body recognized and having a current agreement with the department, or tribal attestation that meets state minimum standards, or persons licensed under chapter 18.57, 18.57A, 18.71, 18.71A, 18.83, or 18.79 RCW, as it applies to registered nurses and advanced registered nurse practitioners.

Should I apply for the probationary license, the full Substance Use Disorder Professional credential, or the Substance Use Disorder Professional Trainee credential?

Applicants are encouraged to look closely at the licensure requirements, assess professional goals, and determine the best option. The probationary license or trainee credential will typically be the best option if you do not meet all education requirements, post-graduation supervised experience requirements, and/or need time to prepare for and take the approved examination. And, if the professional goal is to work within an approved agency (a licensed or certified service provider as defined in RCW 71.24.025). Depending on where you are relocating from, testing may be the only need or you could meet full licensure requirements.

Do I need to provide proof of my supervised experience to obtain licensure in Washington?

Per WAC 246-811-045, if you have been fully licensed, in good standing, and without a disqualifying criminal history in another state for over 5 years, the department does not require you to provide proof of supervision hours. If you have been licensed for less than 5 years, or if you have disciplinary or criminal history, within the past 5 years, then you will be required to have your previous supervisor(s) sign our forms to verify your supervised experience. If you are a substance use disorder professional trainee you must submit your supervised hours to obtain full licensure.

What are the requirements to be a substance use disorder professional approved supervisor?

The requirements to be an approved supervisor are spelled out in WAC 246-811-049 and were updated in July 2020 to remove the separate requirements for those who obtained the credential through the alternative path.

The supervisor must be a licensed Substance Use Disorder Professional (SUDP) or meet the requirements for licensure and be eligible to take the exam. Please note that you must be licensed as an SUDP to practice in the state of Washington and you need to be able to legally practice to be an approved supervisor.

The approved supervisor requirements for all SUDPs are:

  • The approved supervisor must have 3,000 hours of experience in a state approved substance use disorder treatment agency in addition to the supervised experience hours to become an SUDP.
  • The approved supervisor may substitute 28 clock hours of recognized supervisory training for 1,000 hours of experience.
  • The approved supervisor may also substitute 500 hours of experience with 36 hours of continuing education specific to: counselor development; professional and ethical standards; program development and quality assurance; performance evaluation; administration; treatment knowledge; and Washington State law regarding substance use disorder treatment.

Additionally, the previous requirements in WAC 246-809-049 are still in effect. The Approved Supervisor must be able to attest to their qualifications and sign the Verification of Supervision Experience and Statement of Qualifications form.

*Please note that the requirements to become an approved supervisor are the same for all SUDPs. There are no longer separate requirements for Substance Use Disorder Professionals who obtained licensure through the Alternative Path to become an approved supervisor.

How can you obtain a SUDP credential through an apprenticeship program?

Apprenticeships are now an approved option for gaining the necessary education and experience to become a SUDP. Apprenticeship programs are administered and approved by the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). 

Apprenticeships combine the education and experience into a comprehensive program where you can work while you learn. All SUDP apprentices must be approved to enter the apprenticeship by L&I and credentialed as an SUDP Trainee by DOH. Apprentices must work in a state-regulated SUD agency as a SUDP Trainee under the supervision of an approved supervisor. While apprenticeships may have educational programs that are not college coursework, the experience and examination requirements are the same for all SUDP Trainees.

Apprentices must meet the requirements in WAC 246-811-050 to obtain certification as an SUDP:

  • Complete 450 hours of Related/Supplemental Instruction (RSI) provided by a competent instructor in an approved and registered apprenticeship program.
  • Complete 2,500 hours of supervised experience as an SUDP Trainee as required in WAC 246-811-047 and WAC 246-811-050
  • Pass the NAADAC National Certification Examination. WAC 246-811-060.

Another notable difference between an apprenticeship program and college coursework is that the apprenticeship training isn’t transferrable the way college courses are. You must complete the entire apprenticeship program to receive credit for the education, you cannot switch to another program or substitute college coursework to meet requirements. Apprenticeship programs are typically two-years long.
While an apprenticeship program is an option to obtain the SUDP certification in Washington State, the department cannot speak to its portability for use in other states. Each state sets their own requirements for a credential and completion of an apprenticeship may not meet their educational requirements.

How does an organization apply to become an approved apprenticeship program?

Apprenticeship programs are administered and approved by the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), however DOH must approve the educational component of the program to ensure it meets the requirements for certification.  Apprenticeships must meet all the specific educational requirements in WAC 246-811-030 (2)(a)-(w) and provide experience hours for SUDP Trainees working in a licensed SUD agency under the supervision of an approved supervisor.

To have the department review the related/supplemental instruction (RSI) of a potential apprenticeship program, the organization will need to complete the following:

  • Complete the L&I apprenticeship application process.
  • Contact the Department of Health and submit the completed L&I application for review by the SUD Certification Advisory Committee.  
  • The organization must present the application to the committee at an official meeting or a special meeting for review. 
  • The department will act on the request within 90 days, which may include making changes to the related/supplemental instruction (RSI) or approving the request. 
  • After DOH approves the related/supplemental instruction (RSI) component of the application, the organization can move forward to apply for approval from L&I.