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Substance Use & Addictions Specialist (SUAS) Program for MSW Students

(Are you a practitioner interested in these courses? Please contact Erica Desiderio (see contact information below). 

Problematic substance use, substance addiction, and behavioral addiction pose a challenge to our communities as a significant public health issue linked to poverty, violence, family stress, and a host of psychiatric and physical health complications. The UNC School of Social Work offers the Substance Use & Addictions Specialist (SUAS) program that meets all of the educational requirements and fifty percent of the clinical requirements for the Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS) credential administered by the NC Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board (NCSAPPB). The LCAS credential is the qualification of choice for providing substance use prevention and treatment services in North Carolina.

Certificate Program in Substance Use & Addictions Specialty brochureThe SUAS program provides a research and practice-based course of study in problematic substance use, substance addiction, and behavioral addiction, with a focus on prevention, intervention, and treatment. The curriculum is grounded in social work and incorporates a biopsychosocial-spiritual framework that is strengths-based, culturally competent, and gender sensitive across the life span. The program is designed for MSW graduate students to broaden their skills and knowledge to work with clients who have co-occuriring diagnoses and/or substance use and behavioral addictions.

Upon completion of the SUAS program requirements, MSW students will be eligible for their LCAS - Associate designation with NCSAPPB (

What is a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist?

Click the image above to view the video.

Required Coursework

SUAS graduates are eligible to become a LCAS-Associate and are prepared for a career in behavioral health, addictions, or both. SUAS students must have a total of 12 credit hours of courses counting towards this specialist designation. Nine of the twelve hours are obtained through the required SUAS courses, leaving 3 hours to obtain through choosing from a menu of SUAS-approved courses.

Required SUAS Courses (these give you 9 of the 12 required SUAS credit hours, plus the necessary clinical hours):

  • SOWO 700: Foundations of Addiction (3 credits, offered summer & fall)
  • SOWO 760: SUAS Clinical Practice (3 credits) 
  • SOWO 761: SUAS Diverse Populations (3 credits)
  • Field Placement: 2nd year field placement in the field of mental health and addictions with an approved Certified Clinical Supervisor.

Menu of Additional SUAS-Approved Courses (choose from any of the following courses to meet a minimum of 3 additional SUAS-approved credit hours. Completing these credits along with the 9 required SUAS credit hours will satisfy the required 12 hours to complete the SUAS program).

  • *Fall SUAS-Approved Courses:
        - SOWO 741: Integrated Behavioral Health (1.5 credits)
        - SOWO 767: Differential Diagnosis & Case Formulation (3 credits)
        - SOWO 840: Adult Mental Health Theory & Practice (3 credits)
        - SOWO 842: Families Theory & Practice (3 credits)
  • * Spring SUAS-Approved Courses:
        - SOWO 743: SW at the Interface of MH and Criminal Justice (1.5 credits; Mar-May)
        - SOWO 750: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (1.5 credits; Jan-Mar)
        - SOWO 758: Differential Diagnosis (1.5 credits; Jan-Mar or Mar-May)
        - SOWO 764: Motivational Interviewing (1.5 credits; Jan-Mar or Mar-May)
        - SOWO 765: Social Work Practice with Groups (1.5 credits; Jan-Mar or Mar-May)
        - SOWO 831: Substance Use Policy (1.5 credits; Mar-May)
  • * Summer SUAS-Approved Courses:
        - SOWO 741: Integrated Behavioral Health (1.5 credits)
        - SOWO 764: Motivational Interviewing (1.5 Credits)

*Please note, the schedule for these courses is subject to change. To ensure you are reviewing the most current schedule please refer to the school's course schedules at or contact Erica Desiderio (see contact information below).


Students register for these courses as part of their degree program and must complete the SUAS Application of Interest. The deadline for receiving the SUAS application is February 15 of the student's Generalist year. Extensions to the deadline may be considered by contacting SUAS staff (see below). Completed applications must be accompanied by a $25.00 processing fee.

For more information:

  • Behavioral Health Springboard
    UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work
    325 Pittsboro Street, Suite 469
    Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3550

  • Erica Desiderio, MSW
    Student Liaison
    P: (919) 843-3010
    F: (919) 962-6562 
  • Michael McGuire, LCSW, LCAS, LMFT, CSS, MINT
    Clinical Assistant Professor, Director
    Substance Use & Addictions Specialist
    Cell: (336) 405-9506

Useful Links: (this section under construction)

*Program administration is provided by Behavioral Health Springboard at the School of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill.

*This program is partially funded by the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Fund (CFDA #93.959) as a project of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities & Substance Abuse Services.