How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Illinois

Illinois faces escalating addiction rates, driving the demand for certified addictions counselors. O*Net, a national occupation information database, projects the rate of employment for qualified addiction counseling professionals in Illinois to increase by 13% through 2026.

Substance abuse counselors in Illinois must seek certification through the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association. Through its affiliation with the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, the Illinois certification board establishes uniform standards for prevention, substance use treatment, and recovery professionals.

This guide covers information about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Illinois, including education and experience requirements and professional resources.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Illinois

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Education and Experience Requirements

Illinois offers four certification levels for substance abuse counselors: certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC), certified reciprocal alcohol and other drug abuse counselor (CRADC), certified supervisor alcohol and drug abuse counselor (CSADC), and certified advanced alcohol and other drug abuse counselor (CAADC).

While some Illinois certifications don't require a college degree, advancement in the addictions field increasingly requires postsecondary training. The following sections describe the academic and experience requirements to become a substance abuse counselor in Illinois.

Academic Requirements

Educational requirements for substance abuse counselors in Illinois vary by the type of certification. While CADC, CRADC, and CSADC credentials only require a high school diploma or GED, an associate or bachelor's degree reduces the practical experience requirements of these credentials. Candidates for the CAADC credential, the highest level of certification in the state, need a master's degree in a behavioral science, such as counseling, social work, psychology, or marriage and family therapy, that includes a supervised clinical application.

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

Most drug and alcohol counseling bachelor's degrees require 120 semester credits, while a master's degree usually comprises 60 credits. Undergraduate courses vary by program but typically include classes in case management, causes and treatment of addictive behavior, pharmacology, and group counseling. Some schools structure their curriculum to fit the core competencies recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. Coursework in a master's program often addresses professional development and ethics, the social and cultural context of counseling, and specialized substance abuse topics.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

All substance abuse programs require students to participate in supervised field experiences or practicums. Most bachelor's programs require 350 hours of clinical work, while master's programs may require several hundred additional hours of supervised clinical experience. The more clinical hours that a student completes during a degree program, the fewer supervised work hours they need for Illinois certification.

The Exam and Application Process for Illinois Substance Abuse Counselors

This section describes the four levels of certification administered by The Illinois Certification Board (ICB): the basic CADC, and three certificates issued in partnership with the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). All certificates require a criminal background check. ICB charges a $75 application fee and a $175 examination fee for each credential.

CADC

Requirements include a high school diploma or GED, 4,000 hours of paid counseling experience over the past four years, and 150 hours of supervised practical experience. In addition to passing the CADC examination, applicants must complete 225 training hours on treatment services for women, adolescents, and their families; professional ethics; and performance domains that cover professional responsibility, counseling, case management, client education, and assessment.

CRADC

While this certificate does not require college credits, an associate or higher degree reduces the total required supervised practical work hours. All applicants must complete 300 training hours and pass the state-administered CRADC exam and the IC&RC reciprocal exam.

CSADC

Applicants need CRADC certification and 10,000 hours of counseling experience within the past seven years, including 300 hours of supervised practical experience and 350 training hours in treatment services, professional ethics, clinical supervision, and state performance domains. Candidates must pass the CADC Illinois exam, the IC&RC supervisor exam, and the IC&RC reciprocal exam.

CAADC

CAADC requires a master's degree in a behavioral science from an accredited school. Applicants must complete 2,000 hours of paid counseling work, 2,000 hours as a clinical supervisor, 300 hours of supervised practical experience, and 180 training hours in treatment services and professional ethics. Certification requires a passing score on the IC&RC AODA exam.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Addiction professionals certified by IC&RC member boards in other states may apply for equivalent credentials from the ICB. Illinois does not require retesting. IC&RC charges a $100 certification fee to transfer the credential to Illinois. The new credential will have the same expiration date as the previously earned certificate.

Each jurisdiction uses different terminologies for their credentials. The Illinois reciprocal alcohol and other drug abuse counselor credential corresponds to the IC&RC alcohol and drug counselor credential, while the certified supervisor alcohol and other drug abuse counselor credential is equivalent to the IC&RC clinical supervisor credential.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

ICB requires all certified substance abuse counselors to renew their certification every two years. Renewal costs $140-$190, depending on the level of certification. Counselors seeking recertification must submit evidence of completing 40 ICB-approved continuing education units within the two-year certification period. Candidates must acquire an average of 20 CEUs each year to maintain certification. ICB awards 15 CEUs for one semester hour of college credit, 12 CEUs for one college trimester hour of credit, and 10 CEUs for one quarter hour of college credit.

ICB requires all certified substance abuse counselors to renew their certification every two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Illinois

Students interested in learning how to become a substance abuse counselor in Illinois enjoy access to several helpful resources. The following list covers professional associations, databases, government agencies, and advocacy groups for current and prospective substance abuse counselors in Illinois.

  • Addicted.org This resource provides information on various substance abuse organizations and programs in Illinois. It also lists the most commonly abused drugs in the state.
  • Haymarket Center This Chicago-based nonprofit adult detoxification, residential, and outpatient abuse facility provides links to various self-help programs, support groups, drug abuse prevention and treatment organizations, and professional associations.
  • Illinois Association of Addiction Professionals Affiliated with the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, this state organization represents the interests of addiction counselors, educators, and other addiction-focused healthcare providers. Members can earn continuing education units for recertification through the organization.
  • Illinois Association for Behavioral Health This organization advocates for public policies that address behavioral health concerns. It represents the interests of treatment and recovery agencies, staff, consumers, organizations, and corporations.
  • Illinois Counseling Association ICA focuses on professional development for counselors. The association sponsors an annual conference, seminars, and workshops, which provide continuing education opportunities. It also hosts a job board.
  • Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery This state agency coordinates and funds the Substance Use Disorder System, a comprehensive community-based set of services for the prevention, intervention, treatment, and rehabilitation of alcohol and other substance disorders.
  • Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances This organization provides information on substance use treatment and recovery services throughout the state. It assists people who abuse opioids and other substances in finding a path to recovery.
  • Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association IMHCA promotes mental health counseling throughout the state through advocacy, education, and support services. It hosts licensure programs as well as webinars and workshops that provide continuing education units.
  • Illinois School Counselors Association Affiliated with the American School Counselor Association, ISCA boasts a membership of 900 school counselors across the state. It monitors legislation that impacts school counseling and sponsors annual conferences and training events.
  • Women's Plan and Practitioner Toolkit Developed by the Women's Committee of the Illinois Advisory Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependency for the Illinois Department of Human Services, this online resource offers evidence-based practices for the treatment of substance abuse that addresses women's unique needs.

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