Competencies in Addiction Recovery Support: How it works

Competencies in Addiction Recovery Support (CARES): How it works

At a glance

What: Competencies in Addiction Recovery Support (CARES) is an online program that prepares professionals to become substance abuse counselors.

When: Start anytime. You can take up to 90 days to complete each domain, however it is possible to complete the full program in as little as three to six months.

Where: Online

How: Enroll in the content domains that interest you most or complete the entire program.

Cost: $2,500 for the full program or $500 per domain

CE Hours: Earn 60 CE hours per domain or 360 CE hours for the full program.

Questions: Contact Mary Thompson at

CARES logo

How the Program Works

Developed by experts at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, CARES offers a top-quality online experience to anyone interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor. In some states this can meet a portion of your educational requirements.

CARES prepares you for this important work with online learning activities you can complete from nearly anywhere, at a time and pace that’s convenient for you. You learn the material through readings, videos featuring professionals who work in addiction recovery, and case studies that encourage you to apply your new knowledge to real-world situations.

Short quizzes help you track your progress as you move through the program’s content domains, and a summative assessment shows you how much you’ve learned at the end of the CARES experience.

How You’ll Benefit

CARES equips you to become a substance abuse counselor—and address the opioid epidemic head-on—in several ways:

  1. Building knowledge and skills: Evidence-based information and strategies help you serve your clients as effectively as possible. You study important issues such as the neurobiology of addiction, ethical rules and challenges, assessment and evaluation tools, and counseling methods ranging from cognitive behavioral therapy to motivational interviewing.
  2. Meeting educational requirements: No matter what state you live in, CARES can help you fulfill the requirements to become a substance abuse counselor.
  3. Earning continuing education credits: If you complete the full program, you can earn 360 continuing education (CE) hours that meet professional development requirements in fields such as psychology and social work. Or complete CARES domains individually and earn 60 CE hours for each.
  4. Getting ready for exams: CARES is designed to prepare you for credentialing exams offered by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) and the National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC).

Opening the doors to career advancement: Becoming a certified substance abuse counselor can pave the way to a raise, a promotion, a managerial role, and much more. With demand on the rise, you’re likely to have many job opportunities to choose from.

Full Program or Individual Domains

The CARES program consists of six content domains, each with its own learning outcomes, that prepare you for work as a substance abuse counselor, and provides a full summative assessment to support your learning as you prepare for your state’s licensing requirements. This test was designed to pull from all six domains and is similar to the test structure of the IC&RC exam. (This is only the education component and does not include a practicum or internship. Please always check your state’s requirements.)

You can also enroll in domains individually and earn 60 CE hours apiece, or bundle domains to personalize your learning to meet your state or CE needs. If you choose to personalize your learning bundle, the full summative exam is not included.

CARES domains

CE Hours

Enroll in the full program to earn 360 CE hours, or enroll in just the content domains that interest you and earn 60 CE hours for each that you complete. The University of Wisconsin–Madison is an approved continuing education provider for a variety of professional organizations, including:

  • Psychologists: American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Social workers: Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
  • Licensed professional counselors: National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)

Program Fees

Individual content domains: $500 each; enroll in as many as you’d like

Full program: $2,500 for all six content domains (a $500 savings)


Before registering, contact your state’s professional licensing board for additional details about educational requirements for substance abuse counselors, including information about which requirements may be met online. Ready to take the next step? Register here

Save time, stretch your budget

Enrolling in the full CARES program saves you $500, and completing it gives you 360 continuing education (CE) hours. For many substance abuse counselors, the full program meets professional development requirements for more than two years.