Substance Abuse Counselor Certification: Path to Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification in Illinois

The Illinois Department of Human Services sets requirements for clinical staff who work at substance abuse facilities. A person can be qualified on the basis of 1) licensure as a professional counselor, social worker, psychologist, or physician or 2) certification as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor from the Illinois Alcoholism and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association.

Professional Counseling Licensure

A person can enroll in an accredited graduate level addiction counseling and earn both a substance abuse qualification and a license to practice as a professional counselor. Counseling licensure is awarded by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. More detailed information on Professional Counselor Licensure in Illinois can be found here. If the Master's in Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the student can expect it to meet Illinois educational requirements. CACREP has provided a directory. The prospective counselor will need to take an additional examination. Clinical professional licensure is dependent on accruing the equivalent of two full-time-years of qualifying experience while under supervision.

Employees may begin taking on clinical duties if they are within two years of achieving a recognized credential. They must work under verifiable supervision.

Staff who provide limited services such as clinical assessments and DUI evaluations may hold Certified Assessment and Referral Specialist (CARS) certification.

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Achieving Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification

The Illinois Alcoholism and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association (also known as the Illinois Certification Board or ICB) offers alcohol and drug counseling certification at several levels. The advanced counseling certification requires a master's degree. It is different than other ‘above entry-level’ ICB alcohol and drug credentials in that one does not need to accrue additional experience.

The other certifications do not require college degrees, but degrees in related fields can hasten the certification process. Certification is based on education and training, experience, supervised practical training, and examination. At the lower levels, a portion of the experience requirement can be waived based on academic background.

CADC: Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) is the lowest alcohol and drug counseling certification. It is state-specific; a counselor who holds this credential cannot expect to be granted reciprocity by other IC&RC member boards. The individual will need 225 hours of education and training. Illinois requires counselors to have educational hours that are specific to 1) adolescents and/ or their families and 2) women and/ or their families. At the CADC level, the Certification Board expects 15 hours in each of these categories.

A clinically focused baccalaureate can substitute for 2,000 experience hours – the equivalent of one year. A clinically focused associate degree can substitute for 1,000 hours. The degree may be in community or rehabilitation counseling, social work, psychology, sociology, or criminal justice. The trainee will need 150 hours of supervised practical training. At this level, the candidate takes a state-specific examination: the CADC Illinois Examination.

CRADC: The next level is Certified Reciprocal Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor (CRADC). This requires an additional year of experience (three years total if the counselor does not have a qualifying degree). Clinically focused degrees can substitute for experience at the same level that they do for the CADC; thus, a person with a qualifying baccalaureate degree can have a CRADC after just two years of work.

The total education requirement is 300 hours. The requirement for adolescent- and women-specific alcohol and drug education doubles at this level; the counselor will need 30 hours in each of these content areas. In order to be certified at this level, a person will need to have passed both the CADC examination and the IC&RC ADC examination.

CSADC: A substance abuse counselor will need five total years of experience to achieve Certified Supervisor Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor (CSADC) certification; at least two must be at the supervisory level. The counselor will need some additional education, including 30 hours in supervision. An additional examination is required at this level: the IC&RC Supervisor (CS) Examination.

CAADC: The Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC ) certification requires a degree at at least the master's level. The degree is to be in a behavioral science field; the program must include clinical application. The CAADC requires just one year of experience and 180 hours of education that is specific to alcohol and drug counseling. A candidate at this level will take the IC&RC Advanced AADC Examination; this is another nationally recognized examination.

The Certification Application Process

Candidate guides can be downloaded from the website of the Illinois Certification Board (

An applicant for IBS certification will submit a job description with the application. Education is to be documented through official academic transcripts, copies of trainings, and/ or letters of attendance.

There is a $75 application fee and $175 examination fee. Application packages are to be mailed to the Illinois Certification Board in Springfield.

Additional Information

Requirements for substance abuse treatment facilities can be found in state administrative code (

Information about substance abuse counselor certification is available from the Illinois Alcoholism and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association ( The certification board can be reached by telephone at (217) 698-8110 or by email at ‘info at’. Applicants are welcome to contact the organization with their questions. It is suggested that they first download the Illinois Counselor Model; this is included among the applications and forms.

Information about professional counseling licensure is available from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation ( Questions can be directed to (800) 560-6420

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