Program Overview

University of the Pacific's Substance Abuse Counselor Certificate Program gives you the knowledge and experience to become certified in substance abuse counseling. Our program meets the educational and training requirements established according to regulations from the State of California Department of Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Programs. It was developed by Benerd College in conjunction with professionals and experts in the field of substance abuse.

This six-month long program is designed to provide participants with the skills necessary to counsel clients in the recovery process. Topics and skills include assessment, treatment planning, individual and group counseling, case management, crisis intervention, client education, and community resources. Special issues are addressed including sexual harassment, gender, aging, disabilities, cultural differences, and co-occurring disorders. We strongly recommend you are at least one year sober when applying for this program.

Tuition & Fees

This program is not eligible for University of the Pacific or Federal Financial Aid.

Application Fee: $75 (non refundable, paid at time of application submission) (Fee increases to $100 for late applications submitted within late application deadline)

Program Tuition: $4,200 ($525/per course, 8 courses total)

Administrative Fee: $95 (non refundable, paid at time of program acceptance and confirmation)

Textbooks: $590 (est.)

Total Program Cost: $4,960

January 2024 Application date range

Application date range: October 13, 2023 - December 1, 2023

Late app deadline: December 1, 2023 (any applications received after this date are subject to a non-refundable application fee of $100)

Program Dates — January 15, 2024 to June 20, 2024

  • Block 1:  Jan 15 - Feb 25, 2024
  • Block 2:  Feb 26 - April 7, 2024
  • Block 3:  April 8 - May 19, 2024
  • Block 4:  May 20 - June 20, 2024

Note: Fees are subject to change.


To apply for admission to the University of the Pacific’s Substance Abuse Counselor Certificate Program, please submit the following items:

  1. Submit: A completed application (Complete the online application below), including:
    • An essay (250 words minimum) answering the following questions: Why are you applying to our program, what do you feel are the most important characteristics of a substance abuse counselor, and what are your professional goals after completing this program.
    • Two letters of reference from individuals who have knowledge of your interest and ability to become a substance abuse counselor (excluding family members).
    • Optional: Transcripts  and course descriptions of any college or university coursework or degrees. Previous coursework could potentially waive certain classes in this program. Please submit the  Equivalency Form (pdf) along with transcripts. Transcripts will not be evaluated unless the equivalency form is completed. (Please make sure to save a copy of the form)
  2. Pay: $75.00 non-refundable application fee (or $100 late applicaiton fee).


The program consists of 24 total units of instruction taken sequentially in an online format. Each course is 45 hours of instruction and three extended education units of elective credit (eight of these units may be applicable towards an undergraduate degree at Pacific).

Online courses will be 6 weeks, occasionally requiring synchronous interaction. Students take 2 classes at a time. The full program lasts 6 months. In addition to the coursework, students are required to complete 300 hours (255 site, 45 classroom) of supervised internship in order to receive our certificate. Previous internship or experience cannot be counted toward these 300 hours. We recommend you complete the program within six months but it must be completed within three years. If requirements and/or courses have changed during an absence in your attendance, repeating of some classes may be required. Accumulated internship hours may not be done until after the classroom portion is completed and a passing grade is earned in XSAP 167.

This course is an overview of the substance abuse/addiction counseling industry. History of addiction, theories, regulatory issues, etc. will be included. It covers the eight domains of knowledge in the field of addiction: Clinical Evaluation, Treatment Planning, Referral, Service Coordination, Counseling Clients, Family and Community Education, Documentation, and Professional and Ethical Responsibility.   Additionally, the twelve core functions (Screening, Intake, Orientation, Assessment, Treatment Planning, Counseling, Case Management, Crisis Intervention, Client Education, Referrals, Record-keeping and Consultation with Relevant Professionals) are explored.  Community resources, advocacy and educational programs will be covered. Career pathway employment opportunities coupled with state and national licensing requirements will be discussed. 

Course Code: XSAP 160 (3 Extn. Units)

This course provides a comprehensive overview of theories and strategies for the prevention of and intervention with alcohol and drug abuse.  Social norms, peer pressure, stereotyping, biases, interpersonal and intrapersonal factors will be explored in relationship to cultural influences and diversity. Special populations such as Americans with Disabilities, LGBTQIA, gangs, elderly and prisoners will be included. . 

Course Code: XSAP 161 (3 Extn. Units)  

This course provides a survey of the impact of addiction on the individual, the family and in society. A comprehensive study of the dynamics operating in groups and families including the identification of healthy versus dysfunctional groups/families; methods of intervention in dysfunctional groups/families; and the techniques of facilitating treatment groups will be covered. This course offers a practical study of helping strategies and interpersonal skills by engaging students in practicing interview skills and procedures through classroom role playing exercises. 

Course Code: XSAP 162 (3 Extn. Units)  

This course provides an understanding of the addiction process including the various models of addiction. It includes basic pharmacology of drugs, and the history, pharmacology and physiological impact of each drug category. Treatment methodologies including abnormal behavior as delineated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will be covered along with co-occurring disorders. Topics include classifications, clinical pictures, casual factors, treatment and outcomes of maladaptive patterns, assessment, therapy and prevention.  

Course Code: XSAP 163 (3 Extn. Units)

This course covers the assessment processes used in treating people with addiction. The student learns how to administer and score a variety of addiction screeners and assessment tools. Based on the assessment information, the student will create effective treatment planning and programs. Various treatment models and plans will be discussed.  

Course Code: XSAP 164 (3 Extn. Units)  

This course is a review of basic skills for effective and efficient casework management. It will include goal analysis, identification and specification of client objectives, case planning, client contracting, data collection, record keeping, and client progress evaluation and reporting. Skills are applied using actual client examples. Students will be expected to write case plans, client contracts and treatment goals. Relapse, triggers and relapse prevention will be included.

Course Code: XSAP 165 (3 Extn. Units) 

This course covers professional ethics in the addiction field. Topics will include boundaries, code of conduct, confidentiality (including 42 CFR Part II, Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) etc.) and sexual harassment. The dynamics of addiction for the criminal justice client is studied in depth including parole and probation systems along with alternatives to incarceration in the criminal justice system (Drug Courts, Re-Entry Courts, Proposition 36, AB 109, etc.). Communicable diseases (HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis A,B,C and other sexually transmitted infections) will also be included.
Course Code: XSAP 166 (3 Extn. Units)  

This class is a culmination of all courses and allows the student to put their knowledge and skills into practical application. The class is a total of 45 hours devoted to the internship process. Students will review state licensure requirements. The course will cover common problems, situations, and experiences that may arise during the internship. The practicum consists of 255 supervised hours on site at a State Certified Treatment Program. Students are required to complete the entire 300 hours (45 hours in class and 255 practicum) prior to receiving their substance abuse counseling certification.
Course Code: XSAP 167 (3 Extn. Units)