How Can I Become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor?

Research what it takes to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor?

A chemical dependency counselor, also known as a substance abuse counselor, provides treatment for individuals who suffer from addictions to various chemicals, such as alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs, and tobacco. They begin by assessing the client's needs, and then they develop a treatment plan, which can involve both individual and group therapy. Depending on the client's condition, substance abuse counselors may also work in conjunction with medical professionals like physicians and nurses. Many also provide counseling for friends and family members of those with substance abuse issues, in order to help them cope with the stress and help their loved ones recover. All substance abuse counselors must be licensed to practice.

See the table below to learn more about this career option:

Degree RequiredVaries by state and by job; minimum requirement may be one of the following:
H.S. Diploma or G.E.D. (acceptable in some states)
Certificate program (for those with an A.A., B.A., or B.S. degree)
Associate's degree
Bachelor's degree
Master's degree
Education Field of StudyChemical Dependency Counseling
Substance Abuse Counseling
Key ResponsibilitiesAssess individuals for chemical dependence problems
Develop individualized treatment plans
Conduct individual, group and family counseling sessions
Evaluate readiness for treatment termination
Maintain records as required
Licensure/CertificationState licensure or certification is required; specific requirements vary
Professional certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024)22% for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors*
Mean Salary (2015)$42,920 for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities for Chemical Dependency Counselors

Chemical dependency counselors work with people who have substance abuse problems. They offer counseling to individuals, groups, and family members. They also work closely with social workers and other healthcare practitioners to create client treatment plans. As a chemical dependency counselor, you'll participate in conflict resolution sessions with clients and their families. You may also interpret the results of breathalyzer and urine tests to determine a client's level of dependency. Overall, you should be a detailed problem solver with excellent listening skills. In addition, most counselors have a strong understanding of interpersonal relationships.

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, states vary widely in terms of educational requirements for chemical dependency counseling licensure. In some states, you can qualify for licensure with a high school diploma and professional certification (www.bls.gov). However, many states only accept applicants who have completed some postsecondary training.

To meet this requirement, you could pursue an associate's degree in chemical dependency counseling. If you already hold an associate's or bachelor's degree, certificate programs in this field are also available. A few schools offer substance abuse counseling bachelor's program, but they're rare.

In many programs, your core courses will include group counseling techniques, alcoholism, signs of addiction, professional ethics, and case management. Most programs require completion of an internship at a counseling facility. While the hands-on training you'll gain through a postsecondary program could fulfill most of your state's licensure requirements, additional professional experience is often required.

Get Licensed

Upon completion of your degree program and required field hours, you can sit for your state's licensure exam. Many states offer different types of licensure depending on education and experience. For example, in Ohio, you can pursue the Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor II (LCDC) credential if you hold an associate's degree in a behavioral science and have completed 5,000 hours of professional substance abuse counseling. If you hold a bachelor's degree in a behavioral science and have completed 4,000 hours of professional experience, you could earn the LCDC III designation. In other states, like Washington, only one level of certification is available.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a counselor, you could choose to specialize in a different area of the field. For instance, as a marriage and family therapist, you would work with individuals, couples and families to help them work through issues that affect their relationships. Another option is to work as a school counselor, where you would help students deal with behavioral problems, social challenges and other concerns. School counselors who work in high schools may also guide students through the college admissions process and provide future career advice. For any of these counseling jobs, it is necessary to earn a master's degree and pass a licensure exam.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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