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Get in the Know: Here’s What It Takes to Be a CAADE Educator

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The National Institution of Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that alcohol and drug abuse-related crimes, injuries, and lost work productivity cost the US $740 billion every year.

But the drug addiction epidemic in the US has done more than rack up a hefty bill. Each year, families and friends lose loved ones to overdose. And thousands of addicts lose their freedom to drug-related prison sentences.

That’s why substance abuse counselors are in demand now more than ever. The growth rate for drug-related counseling is high compared to similar positions. It’s no wonder then that more and more college and post-graduate students are choosing a career in the field.

Are you interested in a career with addicts but don’t know where to start? Check out this guide to everything you need to know about CAADE certifications. Stick around for more programs through which you can become a certified counselor.

What is CAADE?

Founded in 1984, CAADE is the California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators.

Dr. Dick Wilson wanted to form a not-for-profit organization to set and uphold standards for alcohol/Drug Studies Programs in California. To this day, that mission still stands but has expanded.

Understanding the organization and why the education of students and the certification of counselors need to be distinctly separate. The California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators (CAADE) is the main corporate entity and the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of California (ACCBC) is an autonomous board (or committee) that falls under the CAADE corporate umbrella.

Some of you may still have some confusion about what the ACCBC is, who they are and what its function is. To explain this you must first understand the role of CAADE. The California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators (CAADE) has been around for over thirty years, long before addiction treatment counselors needed to be certified in the state of California. The primary focus of CAADE was and still is, to provide the highest possible educational and ethical standards for the addiction treatment community. This mission has not changed and CAADE is still the leader in this pursuit. CAADE’s responsibilities are; accrediting academic institutions, vetting and approving CEU providers that hold higher standers and meet the requirements for CATC renewal, providing educational materials and exam prep workshops, and working with legislators to raise standards and pass laws that create positive change for the addiction treatment profession.

As the profession grew over the last thirty-plus years, the rules changed and counselors needed to become certified. This was the beginning of a complex shift in CAADE’s role and a substantial change in the way things needed to be done. CAADE went through the process of becoming accredited with the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and began giving the CATC exam in 2007. This is when the ACCBC came into existence because the requirements stated that there needed to be a separation between those who educated counselors (CAADE) and those who certified them (ACCBC). CAADE was renewed by NCCA again in 2012 and given a five (5) year accreditation to certify counselors, at this point separation between education and certification was all that was needed. A few years later, the rules changed again that mandated that those who certify be “fully” independent and autonomous from the educators. That is when the ACCBC took on a much different role for the organization and began creating its own identity within the CAADE organization. The ACCBC is responsible for “all” counselor-related concerns, exams, registration, certification, and all other related activities.

CAADE is and will always remain the main corporate entity with two separate autonomous but attached arms, “CAADE education” on one side and “ACCBC certification” on the other.

CAADE Membership

Anyone can apply to be an accredited member of the California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators. Individuals and organizations can apply. Individual memberships are meant for a single person, including addiction professionals and students.

You may also apply for organizational membership. You’ll get fee waivers for staff and may apply to become an institution for educating future addiction counselors and professionals.

Members have access to:

●      CEU workshops

●      Job boards

●      Personalized support services

However, if you’re looking to become a registered CAADE substance abuse counselor, don’t purchase a membership. You’ll want to get certified instead.

ACCBC Update: CAADE Certification

As of 03/11/2019, CAADE/ACCBC is once again a recognized (by the Department of Health Care Services -DHCS) certifying organization! (

CAADE certification programs have 39-semester credit units, which accounts for 645 hours of study. These hours can be completed either full- or part-time. Since this program is fully accredited, you can easily transfer your credits.

Throughout the program, you’ll develop the theoretical and practical skills you need to become an addiction and abuse counselor. The program is efficient and inexpensive since financial aid is available for all qualifying students in need.

The best part? You don’t need any prior experience in the field to succeed. CAADE is competency-based, which means you will receive all the training and knowledge you’ll need to feel confident that you will be successful.

What can CAADE do for Your Career?

With a CAADE certification, you can become a substance abuse counselor.

CAADE Accredited Addiction Studies Program educates over 5,000 students every year in California, Arizona, and Nevada at community colleges and WASC accredited universities alike.

Students study for their CAADE certification so they can become Certified Addiction Treatment Counselors. Once you receive your certification, you can work for:

●      Non-profits

●      Hospitals

●      Rehabilitation clinics

●      Private practice

●      Schools

●      Detention centers

●      Social and community programs

If you’re an institution or organization, you can become a CAADE educator. You can have a substance abuse certification program at your college or university. First, though, you must become NCAA-approved.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to be a CAADE educator.

NCCA Accreditation

For individuals or organizations who want to educate future substance abuse counselors, you must be recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

Without an NCCA stamp of approval, a program can’t legally certify students as alcohol or other drug counselors. Once certified, though, institutions can offer a CAADE certification program.

There are other NCCA-approved certification programs in addition to CAADE. There are the California Association of DUI Treatment Program (CADTP) and the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP).

Here’s what you need to know about the CADTP and CCAPP programs.


Only a few years younger than CAADE, the CADTP organization has been around since 1986. But it wasn’t until 1988 that they began certifying counselors for addiction treatment.

They offer the CAODC, which is the Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor certification. Like CAADE, it is nationally accredited. However, this program does have a prerequisite.

Students wanting to take a CADTP course at an NCCA-approved institution must take a 9-hour orientation course.


Another certification is the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP) credential. Previously known as CAARR, this organization was founded in 1978.

This program is often chosen because it takes much less time than the CAADE certification. In only 56 weeks comprising 336 hours of courses, you can get your addiction treatment counselor certification.

Everything You Need to Know About the Certification Exam 

The program you take will prepare you for the abuse counselor certification exam.

But if you’re like most students who get cold feet about test-taking, you may be wondering what to expect from the certification exam. After all, you can’t become a certified addiction counselor if you don’t pass.

Here are the 4 most common types of questions you’ll see on the CADTP, CCAPP, and CAADE exams.


In case of management, networking is..?

If you know the answer to this question, you’re already on your way to acing the theory portion of the exam.

Theory questions will focus on both clinical psychology theories as well as case management theories. Questions will be a higher level in nature and require you to synthesize the information you learned in your program.


While the policy and theory questions will be a bit more complicated than your average test question, the CAADE exam is full of simple term and definition matchups.

For instance, your exam might ask:

●      Which of the following drugs is an amphetamine?

●      What is a temporary form of anemia seen alongside binge drinking?

●      What is the legal intoxication limit for driving?

These questions are simple if you pay attention during your program lectures. Flashcards are also helpful for acing the definition questions on your certification exam.


Policy questions include inquiries like, what does primum non nocere mean? This saying is translated from Latin as “First, do no harm.” This is the foremost policy of professionals in industries where patients come first.

Other questions include those about client confidentiality, working with children and adolescents,  or policies about referring clients to AA.

While these questions might seem tedious, they are the most practically applicable questions you’ll see on the exam. Questions about addiction treatment policies will continue to be of import as you start practicing.

When studying for policy questions, try to apply what you’re learning to real-life situations. Not only will you remember the answers to these questions better for the test, but you’ll also be set up for success in your future career.

Intercoast Colleges is offering IC&RC workshops open to all RADTs seeking full certification. These sessions give practical tips on how to prepare for, and how pass, the IC&RC/CCAPP and CADTP exam. Check our events page for more information.

How to become a Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor

So you’ve made it to the end and you still want to become a CAADE-certified addiction counselor. Now what? It’s time to find the right certification program for you.

InterCoast colleges offer a CAADE and CCAPP-accredited program for students who are interested in becoming Certified Addiction Treatment Counselors. Our Alcohol and Drug Counseling Studies certification program is designed for students with no prior experience in the field.

Are you ready to become a substance abuse counselor? Learn more about our Alcohol & Drug Counseling Studies program and get in touch to start your career today.

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