How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Idaho

Substance abuse counselors help individuals and communities battle addiction, particularly alcohol and drug addiction. Their work includes assessment, diagnosis, therapy, and treatment. Ultimately, substance abuse counselors help people through real, life-changing problems.

Like many states, Idaho needs more counseling professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that Idaho employed 1,540 substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in 2018. These employment numbers may rise, however, as the BLS projects a 23% expansion of this profession by the year 2026.

Idaho grants nine licenses related to substance abuse counseling. Below, aspiring counselors can find information on the three most common types: the Idaho student of addiction studies (ISAS), the certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC), and the advanced certified drug and alcohol counselor (ACADC). Each of these licenses has different academic, fieldwork, and testing requirements. Aspiring counselors should pay close attention to these differences and decide which path works best for them.

Read on to learn more about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Idaho.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Idaho

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Idaho here

Education and Experience Requirements

All substance abuse counselors need to meet rigorous academic standards for licensure. These standards help them provide the highest level of care for their patients. Listed below are degree levels, coursework examples, and practicum requirements for the ISAS, CADC, and ACADC licenses.

Academic Requirements

Substance abuse counselors who hold the ISAS license are trainees. As such, Idaho grants the license before graduation. All candidates for ISAS licensure must submit transcripts from an accredited institution with a passing grade in eight required courses, which total 21 credit hours.

To earn a CADC license, candidates need an associate degree in a behavioral science field from a regionally accredited program. More advanced degrees, such as a bachelor's or master's in the field, can help candidates fulfill the license's required work experience hours.

Earning a master's in addiction counseling from an accredited institution qualifies candidates for the ACADC license.

When evaluating schools, consider which programs meet the requirements for Idaho counseling licensure.

Interested in pursuing an education in substance abuse counseling? See the following pages to learn about counseling academic programs by level:

Substance Abuse Counseling Coursework

An ISAS license requires 21 completed credis in the following courses:


Introduction to Drug and Society

Family and Chemical Dependence

Counseling Techniques 1

Pharmacology

Screening and Assessment

Case Management

Ethics for Addiction Counselors

Blood-Borne Pathogens


For associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in the field, students typically need to complete 60, 120, and 36-54 credit hours, respectively. Aspiring substance abuse counselors should consider majoring in counseling, sociology, addiction counseling, or a similar behavioral science field.

When deciding on a major, students must consider the Idaho Board of Alcohol/Drug Counselor Certification Board's (IBADC) specific requirements. Students should look at a program's website and curriculum before deciding where to apply.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Most master's in counseling and some bachelor's in counseling programs require a practicum or internship. These experiences help students gain real-world work experience outside of the classroom. Practicum and internship experiences often take place in counseling offices and chemical dependency organizations.

All three levels of licensure in Idaho require practicum hours. The ISAS license asks for 300 hours, the CADC requires up to 6,000, and the ACADC needs 2,000.

The Exam and Application Process for Idaho Substance Abuse Counselors

The Idaho Board of Alcohol/Drug Counselor Certification issues all substance abuse counselor licenses in the Gem State.

ISAS, CADC, and ACADC candidates must all pass International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) examinations to receive a license.

ISAS requirements include the following steps:

  • Passing grades for 21 credit hours of specific addiction counseling coursework

  • Credit hours must be obtained from an accredited institution

  • Completion of a 300-hour supervised practicum, with a minimum of 10 hours in each of the 12 Core Functions

  • Completed application

  • Completed exam

  • $65 application fee

  • $160 exam fee


CADC requirements include the following steps:

  • Documentation of 6,000 hours of supervised work experience with alcohol and other drug abuse clients within the 12 Core Functions

  • Documentation of 270 hours of education, with at least 30 hours in each area related to the IC&RC performance domains

  • Six hours of training in ethics

  • Completed application

  • Completed exam

  • $80 application fee

  • $235 exam fee


ACADC requirements include the following steps:

  • A master's degree that includes a clinical component

  • Documentation of 2,000 hours of work experience with substance abuse clients

  • Documentation of 300 hours of supervision, with a minimum of ten hours in each of the 12 Core Functions

  • Documentation of 180 hours of education, with at least 30 hours in each area related to the IC&RC performance domains

  • Six hours of training in ethics

  • Completed application

  • Completed exam

  • $80 application fee

  • $235 exam

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Idaho offers reciprocity in states with boards that hold membership in the IC&RC. Counselors can only transfer their licenses to Idaho if they hold an equivalent level of certification in another state.

The IBADC website provides the following guidelines about the reciprocity process:

"In order to receive reciprocity in Idaho, please contact your current certifying board and explain that you would like reciprocity to IBADCC in Idaho. If you are looking to receive reciprocity in to another state, please contact ibadcc.org for a Reciprocity Form."

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Substance abuse counselors must renew ISAS, CADC, and ACADC licenses annually. It costs $135 to renew an ISAS license and $207 to renew a CADC or ACADC license.

The IBADC requires continuing education for licensure renewal. Substance abuse counselors may complete their required continuing education hours over the span of two years. ISAS counselors need 60 hours of continuing education in behavioral science and six hours in ethics. ACADC and CADC counselors must complete 40 hours in behavioral science and four hours in ethics.

Substance abuse counselors may complete their required continuing education hours over the span of two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Idaho

Idaho substance abuse counselors and students can join local, national, and international professional organizations. These groups can provide support, guidance, and resources. They typically provide services like peer networking opportunities, the most current research in addiction diagnosis and treatment, continuing education courses, and local and national conferences.

Below is a list of 10 helpful resources and professional organizations for substance abuse counselors in Idaho.

  • American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry A membership organization for addiction counselors, AAAP ensures that patients have access to the newest discoveries, the best research findings, and the most cutting-edge technology.
  • American Counseling Association A national nonprofit organization for professionals in addiction counseling, ACA focuses on education, growth, and enhancement for practicing substance abuse and addiction counselors.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association AMHCA provides advocacy, research publications, and continuing education to mental health counselors. The organization accepts students, emerging professionals, practitioners, and educators as members.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine A membership organization for students, residents, fellows, and professionals working in addiction medicine and counseling, ASAM offers online publications, certifications, and clinical resources.
  • Idaho Association for Addiction Professionals The Idaho Association for Addiction Professionals is a local chapter of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. NAADAC fights for the highest quality care for clients by offering education, clinical training, and certification to addiction professionals.
  • Association for Humanistic Counseling One of the four founding divisions of ACA, this organization specializes in the philosophy of addiction counseling and encourages the treatment of the whole person (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually).
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness The nation's largest grassroots mental health organization, NAMI offers education and advocacy and promotes awareness through public campaigns such as Mental Illness Awareness Week. NAMI also has a toll-free helpline.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers A membership organization for addiction counselors and adjacent careers, NAATP provides networking opportunities, classes on ethics and professionalism, industry measures, and an annual conference.
  • National Employment Counseling Association A division of ACA, NECA implements practical interventions to help substance abuse counselors nationwide get hired. NECA offers continuing education, advocacy, and career development counseling.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA is a government agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The organization works to reduce substance abuse and mental illness in the United States.

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