Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in North Carolina

North Carolina substance abuse counselors receive their credentials from the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board ( This organization is officially recognized in state statute ( Professionals may be credentialed as Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialists (LCAS) or Certified Substance Abuse Counselors (CSAC); the distinction is made based on education.

The NCSAPPB also issues credentials to prevention specialists and to professionals who work in the criminal justice system. Addictions counseling professionals licensed at the LCAS level may purse supervisor certification.

Select a North Carolina Certified Substance Abuse Counselor or Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist topic below…

Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements

The Certified Substance Abuse Counselor may be earned by a graduate with any level of education from the high school level on ( Individuals who hold master’s degrees but do not meet requirements for the clinical license can be certified at this level.

Candidates must have 270 hours of pertinent education; at least 190 of these will specifically address substance abuse. The candidate will need at least six hours each in ethics and infectious diseases and at least six hours in one or more of the following: psychopharmacology, evidence-based treatment, substance abuse among the elderly, substance abuse among veterans, nicotine dependence. No more than 20% of the required education hours can be met through in-service training. No more than half may be online or independent study (

The candidate must have 300 hours of practicum. At least ten hours must be spent in each of twelve core counseling functions. Supervision is to be provided by a Certified Clinical Supervisor or Clinical Supervisor Intern at a 1:10 ratio ( Once this requirement has been met, the professional can take the IC&C examination at the ADC level and achieve intern status.

Certification follows 6,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of three years of full-time work). The intern must have CCS or CSI supervision at a 1:40 ratio while completing the experience requirement. Certified substance abuse counselors do not practice independently. Once certification has been granted, however, LCAS supervision is adequate ( Supervision requirements decrease with time.

Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist Requirements

In order to qualify as a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist, one must have a master’s degree that includes clinical application.

There are multiple pathways, which apply to different subsets of candidates (for example, those who have already been certified as substance abuse counselors). Professionals who already hold certification from certain recognized organizations are deemed to have met the education, experience (and, in many cases, examination) requirements. The following is a list of application categories:

Category A: Category A applicants demonstrate that education and experience requirements have been met. They must have 180 hours of addictions-specific coursework and 4,000 hours of supervised practice. They must take an examination through IC&RC before full licensure can be achieved.

Category B: Category B applicants are professionals who have held certification as substance abuse counselors ( With a qualifying master’s degree, passing examination scores and references, they can achieve licensing at the LCAS level.

Category C: Candidates are considered ‘Category C’ if they complete an approved program through a regionally accredited school; the student must specialize in substance abuse ( North Carolina has provided a list of approved programs (

Category C candidates progress through a series of levels as they meet requirements. They need only one year (2,000 hours) of postgraduate supervised practice to achieve full licensure.

Category D: Substance abuse professionals can demonstrate qualifications by presenting one of the following certifications (

  • ATOD – National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • Master’s Level CARN or CARN-AP – Addiction Nursing Certification Board (ANCB)
  • MAC – Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC)
  • MAC – National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)

One may also present addiction credentials earned through the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

Candidates who hold ATOD certification through NASW must take the IC & RC examination.

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The Application Process

Candidates who are in the process of meeting requirements for certification or licensure initiate the process by opening a Learning Plan through the Learning Builder Platform. There is a $25 associated fee.

Registration is a first step in the credentialing process. Registration requires submission of several documents. Candidates will submit transcripts ‘as appropriate’ to document that educational requirements have been met. All candidates must have ethics training before they can be registered. They will submit resumes and job descriptions and demonstrate that appropriate supervision is in place. They will agree to be bound by the code of conduct. Registration entails payment of a $125 fee. A criminal background check is required. This requires payment of a $38 fee. A criminal record does not automatically preclude licensing or certification.

Substance abuse professionals will submit additional documentation as they complete requirements. A second supervision agreement may be required when the professional is finished with the practicum and ready to move on to subsequent supervised experience. Candidates will pay an additional fee when they reach the examination stage. Currently, the fee is $125. Full credentialing as a CSAC or LCAS will require submission of references or evaluations.

Candidates applying by deemed status have lesser fees.

Other Credentials Awarded by NCSAPPB

The Certified Substance Abuse Prevention Consultant certification can be granted to individuals with education at the high school level or higher ( In order to achieve the credential, one must complete relevant education in the IC&RC-identified domains, fulfill practicum and supervised practice requirements, and take the IC&RC examination for prevention specialists. With a qualifying degree at the bachelor’s level or higher, the experience requirement can be reduced from three years to two.

The Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional is awarded to individuals who have at least a high school diploma or GED and who complete the requisite training and supervision and pass the appropriate IC&RC examination ( North Carolina Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professionals work under ongoing supervision.

In order to apply for Certified Clinical Supervisor status, one must be an LCAS ( The CSS candidate must complete 15 hours of role-specific education before registration. Full licensure is dependent on completing 4,000 hours of supervised experience and an additional 15 hours of education.

Both CSACs and LCASs are eligible to train for the Certified Substance Abuse Residential Facility Director certification ( Though offered through NCSAPPB, this is not an IC&RC credential.


Substance abuse professionals can be granted reciprocal credentialing on the basis of qualifying certifications issued by other IC&RC member boards ( The North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board notes that an AADC certification is considered equivalent to the LCAS.

The reciprocity process must be initiated through one’s current IC&RC board. In addition to securing the necessary documentation from one’s member board, a reciprocity candidate must have a criminal background check.

Additional Information

Staff members of the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board can be contacted by email (

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