How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Indiana

Addiction rates in Indiana — including alcohol and illicit drug abuse and the nonmedical use of prescription drugs — mirror national trends, driving the demand for qualified, licensed substance abuse counselors. The U.S. Department of Labor projects a 22% increase in the employment of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in Indiana from 2016-2026.

The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency began required licensing of addiction counselors in 2012. Currently, the state offers two levels of licensure: the Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) and Licensed Clinical Addiction Counselor (LCAC) credentials. The path to obtaining a substance abuse license begins with a bachelor's degree in counseling or a related field. Acquiring a clinical license, which provides broader career opportunities like working in private practice, requires a master's degree in a behavioral science field.

Keep reading to learn more about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Indiana. This overview provides current information on educational requirements, the licensing process, and where to find additional resources and professional support.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Indiana

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Indiana here

Education and Experience Requirements

Earning a postsecondary degree is the first step for those who want to become a counselor in Indiana. The following section discusses the academic requirements for employment as a substance abuse counselor, including the number of credit hours, types of coursework, and supervised practice that should be part of a degree program.

Academic Requirements

Indiana has established high standards for the licensing of substance abuse counselors. The state's entry-level license — the LAC credential — requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university; this degree should be in addiction counseling, psychology, sociology, social work, or a related field. The program's curriculum should include coursework that meets the content standards established by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency.

An undergraduate degree in behavioral sciences or counseling also equips students with a strong academic foundation for pursuing a master's degree, which serves as the minimum academic requirement for Indiana's highest level of licensing: the LCAC credential. Students seeking an LAC license with a bachelor's in a field other than counseling or behavioral sciences may have to complete additional coursework before applying for their license.

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

While bachelor's programs vary depending on the discipline focus, most undergraduate programs in counseling or behavioral sciences consist of 120 credits of general education courses, electives, and major coursework.

Prospective substance abuse counselors seeking the LAC license must submit undergraduate transcripts documenting 40 semester credits (or the equivalent) in specific content areas. These credits should include coursework in subjects such as abnormal psychology, psychoactive drugs, addictions theory, family education, and personality theory. Students should also complete applied courses that address counseling skills, treatment plans, cultural competency, and professional ethics.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Most addictions-related undergraduate degrees require about 350 hours of hands-on alcohol or other drug abuse counseling, typically in the form of an internship, practicum, or field experience. Students must complete these practical experiences under the supervision of a licensed addiction counselor, clinical social worker, psychologist, or an equivalent professional.

The Exam and Application Process for Indiana Substance Abuse Counselors

Indiana's Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board — a division of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency — administers two levels of licensure: LAC and LCAC credentials, as described below. Both licenses require a background check and a $50 application fee. In addition to licensing exams, applicants must pass the Indiana jurisprudence examination.

LAC

This credential requires a bachelor's degree in behavioral sciences or addiction counseling that includes 40 credits of coursework in state-mandated content areas and 350 hours of field experience. Applicants must also submit proof of two years of post-degree supervised experience, including at least 150 hours of face-to-face supervision. 

Candidates for licensure may choose to take one of two national exams: the International Examination for Alcohol & Drug Counselors administered by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) or the National Certified Addiction Counselor II exam administered by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).

LCAC

This credential requires a master's degree in a behavioral science field that includes at least 27 credits of addiction counseling coursework in state-mandated content areas. Applicants must also take 2-3-credit courses in assessment and appraisal as well as professional, ethical, and legal standards. In addition to 350 hours of field experience and two years of post-degree supervised experience, this license requires 200 hours of face-to-face supervision. Candidates for the LCAC credential may opt to take IC&RC's Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor exam or the Master Addiction Counselor exam administered by the NAADAC.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Out-of-state substance abuse counselors seeking Indiana endorsement need a current license or certification from another state. While generally exempt from license retesting, out-of-state applicants still need to fulfill Indiana's educational and practice experience requirements for licensing. Individual's must also pass Indiana's jurisprudence examination.

In most cases, substance abuse counselors who have been licensed outside of Indiana can obtain an Indiana license without taking a practical exam. This applies if they have previously passed an equivalent state licensing exam and if they have been practicing for at least three of the last five years. It also applies if they hold a valid national certification and have been practicing in a state that does not require licensing for addiction counselors.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Indiana's Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board requires licensed substance abuse counselors to maintain and renew their licenses biennially. Both the LAC and LCAC licenses expire in even-numbered years on April 1, with notices sent to license holders 90 days prior to expiration. The licensing board currently charges a $50 renewal fee for each license.

License holders must maintain their licenses by completing 40 clock hours of continuing education units within the two-year renewal period, including two hours in ethics. Individuals should complete at least 20 units each year, including a minimum of one hour in ethics. Licensees may apply for renewal online through the board's website.

Indiana's Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board requires licensed substance abuse counselors to maintain and renew their licenses biennially

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Indiana

This list provides several useful resources for students interested in learning how to become a substance abuse counselor in Indiana, as well as for individuals already working in the field. Professional associations, advocacy groups, research sites, and databases can help you keep current about issues related to alcohol and substance abuse treatment and recovery, licensing, and credential information.

  • Addicted.org/Indiana This organization maintains a database of long-term drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, long-term residential facilities, outpatient clinics, withdrawal management centers, and no-cost programs throughout the state. It also provides links for services geared to individuals, families, and different communities in Indiana.
  • Division of Mental Health and Addiction This division of Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration sets care standards for mental health and addiction services and funds prevention and treatment programs. DMHA's website provides links to resources for care providers and those seeking services.
  • Floyd Memorial Foundation, Family Guidance Group This nonprofit sponsors an addictions coalition to support individuals and families dealing with addiction in southern Indiana. Its website provides educational material on addiction and links to available resources.
  • Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition This nonprofit promotes recovery through advocacy, education, and service. It sponsors community events, maintains a directory of treatment centers, and provides online publications and links to external educational resources.
  • Alcohol and Addictions Resource Center This resource presents information on prevention, education, intervention, assessment, and referral services. It maintains a resource directory for addictions treatment, 12-step programs, and advocacy and community action groups.
  • Indiana Counseling Association This statewide professional association represents the interests of mental health, school, marriage and family, and addiction counselors. Membership benefits include workshops and annual meetings, job listings, and professional development and continuing education opportunities.
  • Indiana Family and Social Services Administration - Resource Guide The FSSA resource guide helps providers, advocates, and faith- and humanitarian-based organizations connect their clients to available and appropriate state services. It describes state-administered and funded programs and provides information on how to qualify for assistance. 
  • Indiana Prevention Resource Center Maintained by Indiana University's School of Public Health, this website contains a collection of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention resources, including online databases, research reports, and opportunities for in-person and online training.
  • Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission This state agency develops programs to prevent and reduce the usage of tobacco and tobacco products in Indiana. It partners with community- and minority-based groups to develop programming and provides resources on health issues related to tobacco use.
  • Our Place, Drug and Alcohol Education Services This nonprofit provides services in several Indiana counties that support education, prevention, intervention, and recovery. Its website offers extensive links to professional organizations, government agencies, rehabilitation programs, and other educational materials.

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