Our MSW curriculum in behavioral and mental health combined with specialized electives is approved by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) to satisfy the educational requirements toward certification as a substance abuse counselor.

DSPS (not UWM) grants certification for substance abuse counselors in the state of Wisconsin. To become certified, a person must have specialized coursework, documented practice experience in an appropriately supervised substance abuse counseling setting, and must pass the state-required examinations.

The MSW program in Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at UW-Milwaukee offers our students the opportunity to complete the required specialized coursework while concurrently earning their master’s degree in social work.

Our DSPS-approved substance abuse counseling curriculum cannot be taken separately from the MSW degree program.

The substance abuse counseling curriculum of the MSW program at UWM is approved through July 28, 2025.

Why Pair the Substance Abuse Counselor Courses With the MSW Degree

  • In order to be qualified in the state of Wisconsin to provide treatment for substance misuse disorders, one must hold a DSPS Substance Abuse Counselor credential.
  • Certification in substance abuse counseling is a valued additional credential for many clinical social work and mental health positions.
  • Clinical social workers can provide a more comprehensive continuum of care to social work clients when qualified to treat both mental health and substance use disorders.

Current MSW Students

The MSW concentration in behavioral health and mental health is the required track for those who want to meet the requirements for substance abuse counseling certification with the Wisconsin DSPS.

Required electives for the substance abuse counselor emphasis are:

  • SOC WRK 818 Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders
  • SOC WRK 820 Treatment of Substance Misuse and the Family
  • SOC WRK 820 Motivational Interviewing
  • SOC WRK 791 Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA)

The above listed electives are not offered every semester. Talk to an advisor about incorporating the substance abuse counseling electives into your course plan.

Keep your eye out for presentations in the fall and spring semesters specific to Wisconsin credentialing, which will include further information about pursuing and applying for substance abuse counselor certification at the SAC-IT and SAC levels.

Graduates of the MSW Program at UWM

Meeting the educational requirements of the Wisconsin DSPS for Substance Abuse Counseling is dependent on when you were a student in the MSW program. Amy Kirby (kirby@uwm.edu) can help you determine what is required for you and how your MSW curriculum meets those requirements. She can also provide documentation to DSPS about the educational requirements that you have met when you are applying for either SAC-IT or SAC.

Student Resources