Substance Abuse Counselor / Alcohol and Drug Counselor Requirements in Maryland

Maryland substance abuse counselors are regulated by the Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists (http://dhmh.maryland.gov/bopc/SitePages/Home.aspx). There are multiple levels of credentialing. All require degrees at the associate’s level or higher.

An individual who holds a graduate degree in a qualifying field may, after working under supervision, attain Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC) status. An individual with a bachelor’s degree may earn a Certified Associate Counselor – Alcohol and Drug (CAC-AD) credential; an individual with an associate’s degree can earn a Certified Supervised Counselor – Alcohol and Drug (CSC-AD) credential.

Trainee status may be awarded before a degree has been earned.

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Requirements: Alcohol and Drug Trainee

An individual can be credentialed as a trainee with, at minimum, fifteen semester hours of coursework in alcohol and drug counseling. Coursework in ethics is also required. A candidate who holds a degree at the associate’s level or higher does not need to provide evidence of having coursework in board-mandated areas (with the exception of ethics). A candidate who does not yet hold a degree must provide evidence of coursework specifically related to alcohol and drug counseling; qualifying courses are listed on the course worksheet (http://dhmh.maryland.gov/bopc/pdfs/PreapplicationCredentialevaluationforAandDTrainee.pdf).

An individual may hold trainee status for up to six years (http://www.dsd.state.md.us/comar/getfile.aspx?file=10.58.07.08.htm). The credential must be renewed every two years.

Requirements: Certified Supervised Counselor – Alcohol and Drug

An applicant at the CSC-AD level will need an associate degree and coursework in substance abuse topics prescribed by the Board. A candidate with a qualifying human services degree must demonstrate 15 semester hours of coursework from the list.

An individual whose associate’s degree is not in a counseling-oriented health and human services field may be found eligible for certification. However, the individual must complete a program that is substantially equivalent. It will be necessary to document 30 semester hours of counseling coursework.

The trainee will need at least two years of total supervised substance abuse counseling experience. It will be necessary to work for at least one year, and accrue at least 1,000 hours, after the associate’s degree is earned (https://health.maryland.gov/bopc/Pages/ad.aspx).

Requirements: Certified Associate Counselor – Alcohol and Drug

A candidate for CAC- AD must have a baccalaureate degree. If the degree is in a qualifying health and human service field, the candidate must have 21 semester hours of coursework in drug and alcohol counseling and one semester hour in ethics. If the candidate is applying on the basis of a substantially equivalent program, fully 45 semester hours of counseling-related coursework must be demonstrated. The program must be from an accredited, approved institution and must include the required drug and alcohol counseling coursework.

Additionally, the CAC-AD must have three years of work experience; he or she must accrue at least 2,000 hours of substance abuse counseling experience under an approved supervisor (https://health.maryland.gov/bopc/Pages/ad.aspx). At least two years of work experience must be earned post-baccalaureate; the counselor must accrue no fewer than 1,750 supervised hours.

The candidate must pass the IC & RC examination. Approval will be granted after education and experience requirements have been met. The IC & RC examination is now computer-delivered. There are sites in Annapolis, Bel-Air, and Columbus. Also required is the Maryland State Law Test; this is administered at the Board office.

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Requirements: Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC)

An LCADC will need a master’s degree of 60 semester hours or a doctoral degree of 90 semester hours. The Board notes that a candidate who completed a 48 semester hour master’s degree could qualify by taking additional coursework (http://dhmh.maryland.gov/bopc/SitePages/faqs.aspx).

The degree should be in a counseling-related health or human service field. Graduate degrees in other arenas may be accepted if the candidate has completed a program that is substantially equivalent. In this instance, fully 51 counseling credits must be documented.

The candidate will need a total of at least 27 semester hours related to drug and alcohol counseling; this may include coursework taken at the undergraduate level.

The candidate will need at least three semester hours of undergraduate or graduate coursework in each of the following*:

  • Human growth and development
  • Counseling theory
  • Professional practice/ ethics
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Substance abuse models
  • Addictions service delivery
  • Pharmacology of psychoactive drugs
  • Alcohol and drug counseling topics

*If the school uses a quarter hour system, courses must be five quarter hours.

The following courses must be taken at the graduate level:

  • Psychopathology and diagnosis
  • Psychotherapy and treatment of mental disorders
  • Addiction treatment delivery

The graduate-level addiction treatment delivery course includes clinical evaluation. (A description of content covered in each course can be found in the application packet.)

While completing post-master supervised practice requirements, the professional will be licensed as a Licensed Graduate Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LGADC).

The candidate must pass the Examination for Masters Addiction Counselors (EMAC).This is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. The state law test must also be passed.

Candidates who will be taking the EMAC examination should note the application deadlines listed in the application packet. The EMAC is administered just four times a year and requires pre-approval. Application deadlines may be set more than three months in advance of an upcoming administration; failure to submit by the deadline will mean not receiving consideration until the next application cycle.

A candidate with a 60 semester hour master’s will need three years of experience, at least two of them at the post-master level (https://health.maryland.gov/bopc/Pages/ad.aspx).

A candidate with a 90 semester hour doctoral degree will need three years of experience, at least one at the post-doctoral level. A candidate with either degree will need at least 2,000 total hours of supervised clinical experience.

The Board requires 100 hours of face-to-face supervision for either a master’s or doctoral level candidate; at least half the required hours must be individual supervision.

The Application Process

The Board now requires criminal background checks. Candidates can expect to receive background check information through the mail.

Application materials are available on the Board site (http://dhmh.maryland.gov/bopc/SitePages/forms.aspx).

Candidates will document qualifying coursework on a course description form. Examples of qualifying course titles are found on the Board site (https://health.maryland.gov/bopc/Pages/ad.aspx). If titles don’t match those in the application packet, candidates will attach supporting documentation in the form of syllabi or course descriptions. Candidates who are unsure about the acceptability of courses may fill out a pre-application credentials evaluation.

Degrees are to be verified through official transcripts.

The candidate will need to have three professional references. References will fill out confidential assessment forms and return them to the candidate in sealed envelopes; they are to be included in the application packet.

Employment may be verified by a letter from the supervisor or from the personnel department.

The application must be notarized. There is a space on the application form to attach a passport-style photograph.

The CSC-AC, CAC-AC, and LGADC applications carry a $75 nonrefundable fee; an additional $100 fee will be assessed later if the candidate is approved for certification.

An alcohol and drug counselor may transfer from LGADC to LCADC after submitting additional references and documentation of hours; the verification form will be filled out by the supervisor. A $100 licensing fee will be required if the counselor is found eligible (http://dhmh.maryland.gov/bopc/SitePages/forms.aspx).

Additional Information

The Maryland Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists (http://dhmh.maryland.gov/bopc/SitePages/licenseeinfo.aspx) can be reached at 410-764-4732.

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