Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in Iowa

Iowa licenses substance abuse programs, not substance abuse personnel. However, Iowa Administrative Code 156.3(2) sets minimum standards for personnel who provide screening, assessment, evaluation, and treatment ( They are to be certified by the Iowa Certification Board or by a member board of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC & RC) or otherwise demonstrate education, training, and experience appropriate to the field.

The Iowa Certification Board (ICB) is a member board of the IC & RC. While certification requirements are not identical from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, substance abuse counselors are typically required to seek certification in a jurisdiction where they live or work more than half of the time.

The Iowa Certification Board offers multiple levels of certification. The Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) is a nonreciprocal entry-level credential. The International Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IADC) is reciprocal credential; requirements are set somewhat higher. The International Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IAADC) is the advanced credential for professionals with graduate degrees.

ICB also offers a Certified Treatment Assistant certification and several specialty certifications.

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Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) Requirements

A candidate may opt to meet the requirements for the basic credential, CADC, primarily through education or primarily through experience ( Ultimately, the candidate will need to pass a national examination and earn a satisfactory supervisor evaluation.

Education Track: The candidate will need 24 semester hours of related coursework plus 150 clock hours of education relevant to the role of a substance abuse counselor. The 24 semester hours may be in substance abuse or in counseling, criminal justice, human services, social work, sociology, or psychology. 33 quarter hours is considered the equivalent of 24 semester hours. In order for coursework to be credited, the candidate must earn at least a ‘C’.

The 150 clock hours of relevant training must include at least 45 hours of theories and techniques of counseling, six hours of counseling ethics, 45 hours that are directly related to substance abuse, six hours that are related to special populations, and three hours related to race and ethnicity. These hours may be earned through college credit, workshops, or other trainings. A semester hour of academic coursework is credited as fifteen clock hours, a quarter hour as ten. Up to half the hours may be online learning or approved in-service.

Additionally, the trainee will need at least 1,000 recent hours of experience. At least 500 must be spent doing tasks related to eight identified domains: clinical evaluation, counseling, treatment planning, referral, service coordination, documentation, client/ family/ community education, and professional/ ethical responsibility; there must be at least ten hours in each. The trainee will need at least 36 hours of direct supervision.

Experience Track: The CADC candidate will need a high school diploma or general education diploma. The candidate will also need 150 hours of relevant training; these are to be distributed in the same manner as they would be for a candidate pursuing the education track. However, the candidate will not need any college-level academic coursework. (Academic coursework can, though, be credited at the rate of one semester hour for fifteen clock hours.)

The candidate applying through this pathway will need fully 3,000 hours of experience performing the required domains. At least 36 must consist of direct supervision.

International Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IADC) Requirements

An IADC will need 270 hours of training pertinent to the role of a substance abuse counselor. At least 90 must be in theories and techniques of counseling; at least 90 must be substance abuse related. At least 30 hours must have been earned in the prior two years.

No college degree is required. However, candidates with degrees in the behavioral sciences will have reduced work experience requirements. With no qualifying degree, the requirement is 6,000 hours. With an associate’s degree in behavioral sciences, it is 5,000 hours. With a bachelor’s in behavioral sciences, it is 4,000; with a master’s in behavioral sciences, it is just 2,000.

A trainee who has education at less than the bachelor’s level will need 500 hours of qualifying on-the-job training. A candidate who has at least a bachelor’s in behavioral sciences will need just 300. There must be at least ten hours in each of the identified domains.

International Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IAADC) Requirements

The advanced credential can only be obtained by individuals with master’s degrees in behavioral sciences. The candidate must have 180 clock hours of education specific to alcohol and drug abuse; at least 30 must have been earned in the prior 24 months.

The advanced trainee will need supervised experience in ten domains. Included are the eight domains required for the IADC certification, plus 1) clinical supervision and 2) research, design analysis, and utilization.

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The Application Process

An individual must document education and experience requirements before examination approval can be granted. At this time, the candidate will purchase an application; there is a $40 fee (

A supervisor evaluation must be submitted. It must cover a minimum of three months if the supplicant is applying for the ADC credential. It must cover a minimum of six months if a higher credential is sought. A candidate who scores below the minimum cannot be scheduled for an examination. However, the candidate may be found eligible for examination at a future date if a higher score is achieved. The candidate handbook includes a description of expected competencies under each domain.

An approved addiction counselor candidate must pass the IC & RC examination at the appropriate level. The Certification Board will pre-register the candidate; the candidate will be notified and asked to schedule. Candidate handbooks are available for download on the Certification Board website ( The fee for the computer-based examination is $140.

It may take four to six weeks for exam results to be known ( Certification can be granted following the next meeting of the Board of Directors. A candidate who has met all requirements, including examination, will be asked to pay a certification fee; this must be done within 30 days. The fee is currently $200.

The Upgrade Process

A substance abuse counselor who is certified at the ADC level and wishes to upgrade to IADC may fill out a short form application. The alcohol and drug counselor will need to submit documentation of education that was completed after issuance of the ADC credential. ADCs certified in the more distant past may not have taken the IC & RC examination; they will be required to do so as part of the upgrade process.

There is an additional test (and lengthier application) required to upgrade to IAADC.


Alcohol and drug counselors certified by other IC & RC boards will be granted reciprocity in Iowa without additional training or experience ( There is a $100 fee for candidates requesting reciprocity.

Specialty Certifications

Certified Co‐Occurring Disorders Professional certifications (CCDP and CCDP‐D) both require academic degrees in behavioral sciences or co-occurring disorders ( The CCDP requires a bachelor’s, the CCDP-D, a master’s. The experience requirement is lower for the CCDP-D certification. The IC & RC examination is the same whichever level of certification is sought.

The Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS), Certified Criminal Justice Professional (CCJP), and Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) certifications do not require academic degrees ( However, individuals with higher education can achieve CCJP or CCS with fewer years of experience. The CCS is an add-on credential.

Additional Information

Candidates with questions may contact the Iowa Certification Board ( at 515‐965‐5509.

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