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The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) ensures the provision of quality treatment through the enforcement standards for professional and safe treatment. DHCS does not certify counselors; however, DHCS does ensure counselors provide quality treatment to clients by enforcing the Counselor Certification Regulations, Title 9, Division 4, Chapter 8.
Counselor certification is based upon the Addiction Counseling Competencies: The Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes of Professional Practice, published by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Individuals who provide counseling services such as intake, assessment of need for services, treatment planning, recovery planning, individual or group counseling to participants, patients, or residents in any alcohol and other drug program licensed or certified by DHCS are required by the State of California to be certified. To obtain certification, counselors must register with one of the DHCS approved certifying organizations. From the date of registry, counselors have five (5) years to become certified. If counselor fails to become certified after being registered for 5 years, the counselor will not be permitted to provide counseling services to clients.
The requirements for certification for individuals providing counseling services in alcohol and other drug recovery and treatment programs are found in the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 9, Division 4, Chapter 8; and Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Services Information Notice 16-058.
All non-licensed or non-certified individuals providing counseling services in a substance use disorder program must be registered to obtain certification as an alcohol and other drug counselor by one of the DHCS approved certifying organizations (Health and Safety Code, Section 11833(b)(1)).
Registrants are required to complete certification as a substance use disorder counselor within 5 years from the date of initial registration with any DHCS approved certifying organization (CCR, Section 13035(f)(1)).
Certifying individuals are required to provide documentation of completion of a minimum of forty (40) hours of continuing education and payment of a renewal fee to their certifying organization in order to renew their alcohol and other drug certification during each two-year period. (CCR, Section 13050(I))
Please email your questions or concerns regarding counselor certification to
Substance Use Disorder Complaints
If you wish to file a complaint about a licensed, certified AOD drug service provider OR a certified counselor you can do so via mail, fax, or by using the online Complaint Form. You may contact the Complaints Section via email at