Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification and Licensure in Maryland

Maryland substance abuse counselors are licensed by the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists. There are four alcohol and drug counseling designations:

  • Certified Supervised Counselor-Alcohol and Drug (CSC-AD)
  • Certified Associate Counselor-Alcohol and Drug (CAC-AD)
  • Licensed Graduate Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LGADC)
  • Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCACD)

Maryland sets academic standards high. Academic degrees are expected at all levels. Substance abuse related coursework, moreover, is to be pursued for academic credit; continuing education is not accepted as meeting requirements for initial licensure. The level of the degree largely determines the level of the counseling designation. However, no distinction is made between master’s and doctoral degrees. A clinical counselor does have to meet more stringent coursework requirements – this is in addition to fulfilling a post-graduate supervised practice requirement.

An individual may apply for trainee status before meeting requirements for any license.

New license requirements went into effect in October of 2015. The revised law also clarifies scope of practice: Baccalaureate-level CAC-ADs may not practice independently.

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General Academic Requirements for Alcohol and Drug Counselors in Maryland

Maryland alcohol and drug counselors must earn their degrees through regionally accredited schools. Generally, degrees should be earned in human service counseling fields. Other degrees can be accepted, though, if the applicant completes an equivalent program of study. An individual demonstrating equivalency will be expected to provide evidence of additional health/ human service counseling coursework beyond the required alcohol and drug courses.

At each level, there is a minimum number of semester hours of alcohol and drug coursework. There is also a list of required courses. At all but the highest level, there is a list of additional courses that are creditable as alcohol and drug coursework. The counselor will need some, but not all, to meet requirements at that level. By the highest level, the counselor will need courses in all content areas.

Courses may go by different names. The pre-application forms include a description of required course content as well as possible course titles. (Pre-application evaluation can be used to determine whether an individual has met academic requirements for licensure; it is an optional first step in the application process.)

Certified Supervised Counselor-Alcohol and Drug (CSC-DA) Educational Requirements

A CSC-AD will need a degree at the associate's level. He or she must have at least 24 semester hours of alcohol and drug coursework. The following courses are mandatory:

  • Addiction treatment delivery
  • Ethics
  • Medical aspects of chemical dependency (sometimes referred to as ‘pharmacology’)
  • Practicum, internship or supervised experience

The ethics course must include issues in alcohol and drug counseling.

The applicant will need three additional courses drawn from a list of eight. The list includes offerings such as human development, individual counseling, and group counseling. Three of the courses that appear on the list will be required at the next level (if the professional goes on to pursue baccalaureate level licensing).

Practicum or internship is to comprise six semester hours or ten quarter hours; three semester hours or five quarter hours is adequate for the other required courses.

Certified Associate Counselor-Alcohol and Drug Educational Requirements

A CAC-AD will need a degree at the bachelor's level. He or she will need at least 33 semester hours of alcohol and drug coursework. Required courses include the following (in addition to treatment delivery, ethics, and pharmacology):

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling

The practicum/ internship requirement is the same as it is at the associate level: six semester hours or ten quarter hours.

The counselor will need three additional courses from a list of five.

Licensed Graduate Alcohol and Drug Counselor Educational Requirements

An LGADC will need a degree at the master's or doctoral level. The program will be at least 48 semester hours. The graduate will need at least 27 semester hours of alcohol and drug coursework. The list of didactic courses is the same as that required for CAC-AD. An applicant at this level will again demonstrate three courses from a list of five. (All five courses will ultimately be required for clinical licensure.)

An applicant at the LGADC level will not need to demonstrate internship or practicum. However, an applicant for clinical licensure will need to have pursued practicum, internship, or other supervised experience for academic credit.

Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor Educational Requirements

A substance abuse counselor at the LCADC level will need at least 60 total graduate semester hours. He or she will have no less than 39 semester hours of alcohol and drug coursework.

The following five courses are mandatory at this level:

  • Family counseling
  • Human development
  • Theories of counseling
  • Treatment of co-occurring disorders
  • Topics in substance related and addictive disorder

The following content areas must be pursued at the graduate level:

  • Personality development
  • Mental and emotional disorders: diagnosis and treatment
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychopathology

Psychotherapy coursework is to cover alcohol and drug use disorders.

The student will need the equivalent of six semester hours of practicum, internship, or other supervised experience.

Supervised Practice Requirements

Supervised practice is required at two levels: CAC-AD (baccalaureate level) and LCADC (clinical level).

In order to achieve the CAC-AD credential, a substance abuse counselor must accrue at least 2,000 hours over a period of at least one year.

An LGADC will work under supervision for at least two years before becoming eligible for the clinical license. He or she will need to accrue at least 2,000 experience hours.

Examination Requirements

Maryland requires both a national alcohol and drug counseling examination and a state law examination. Candidates below the graduate level take the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) AODA examination. Candidates at the LGADC or LCADC level take the Examination for Master Addiction Counselors (EMAC); this is offered by the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC).

The Maryland Law Test is administered at the Board Office. The IC&RC examination is available in three Maryland cities.

The Application Process

Application forms can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (https://health.maryland.gov/bopc/Pages/index.aspx).

Applicants will submit official transcripts. They can expect to complete a criminal history records check before being approved for examination.

Prospective alcohol and drug counselors can choose to submit their academic coursework for pre-application review. There is a $50 for this service. If course titles differ from those listed, syllabi or course descriptions will be required. Pre-application review may take as long as 90 days.

Additional Information

Licensing information is available from the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists (http://dhmh.maryland.gov/bopc/Pages/index.aspx). The Board can be reached by telephone at 410-764-4732 or 410-764-4740.

The Maryland Association of Addiction Professionals is a state professional association (http://www.naadac.org/maryland).

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