How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Louisiana

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of drug overdoses in the United States tripled between 1999 and 2016. In particular, Louisiana suffers from drug overdose deaths at a rate statistically higher than the national average. Fortunately, the growing numbers of substance abuse counselors have the power to help improve these statistics.

Depending on their academic and work experience, Louisiana substance abuse counselors can choose from six levels of certification. The state offers three primary licensing options: Registered Addiction Counselor (RAC), Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC), and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC). Some LACs also may qualify to become Certified Clinical Supervisors (CCSs).

Each of these licenses require applicants to be at least 21 years old, have no felonies or substance issues within the past two years, and meet the education and experience requirements pertinent to their license.

Two additional credential options are available for younger or less experienced individuals who wish to enter the field. Those with a high school diploma, a felony-free record, two years or more without substance abuse, and 180 hours of addictions-related education can become Counselors-in-Training (CITs) if they are at least 18 years old. Younger individuals — or those lacking the requisite education and work experience for licensure — can enter the field as early as 16 years of age, filling the role of an Addiction Treatment Assistant (ATA). ATAs need only six months or more without a substance abuse issue.

This guide outlines how you can become a substance abuse counselor in Louisiana, discussing professional counseling resources and education, experience, and application requirements.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Louisiana

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Education and Experience Requirements

Academic Requirements

Louisiana substance abuse CITs must have at least a high school diploma and a minimum of 180 hours of addictions-related education. This education can be in the form of college coursework or other kinds of formal, structured education such as in-service hours and workshops. To gain additional licensure as an RAC, CAC, or LAC, counselors need to complete additional approved hours of related education, pass relevant examinations, and undertake supervised work hours.

The RAC license requires a high school diploma and 270 approved hours of education (with at least 180 related to addictions); the CAC license requires a related bachelor's degree; and the LAC license requires a related master's or doctoral degree.

When assessing an applicant's academic credentials, Louisiana considers accredited degrees in the following human service or behavioral health fields: addiction studies, counseling, educational counseling, rehabilitation counseling, behavioral health, public health, health administration, public policy/public administration, social work, criminal justice, or sociology. Louisiana's Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority (LA-ADRA) — which serves as the Louisiana counselor board — and the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) sometimes grant waivers for comparable degrees combined with additional experience.

For more information about counseling education and careers, click here.

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

A Louisiana substance abuse license requires a minimum of 180 hours of addictions-related education. This can be achieved through college classes or other kinds of structured education, such as courses provided through institutes, distance learning, in-service hours, and workshops. At least six of these hours must pertain to ethics. To earn an RAC license, a counselor needs to pass examinations, perform requisite supervised work hours, and complete another 90 or more approved hours of accredited education.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

In addition to the addiction-related education requirements described above, Louisiana substance abuse CITs need to complete work experience requirements to attain higher levels of licensure. To become an RAC, a CIT must accrue 6,000 hours (about three years full time) of work experience, including a 300-hour practicum centered on essential substance abuse counseling functions and criteria (with at least 20 hours in each core function area). A related associate degree reduces the RAC work requirement by 1,000 hours, though it does not replace the practicum hours.

CACs need 4,000 hours (about two full-time years of work) and LACs need 2,000 hours (one year full time). CCSs must have 4,000 hours of supervised experience, plus an additional 6,000 experience hours, adding up to 10,000 hours total (about five years of full-time work). The CCS credential also requires 30 hours of clinical supervision education.

The Exam and Application Process for Louisiana Substance Abuse Counselors

Louisiana substance abuse counselors obtain their credentials from LA-ADRA. Licensure application requirements vary by license, but all applicants need to sign a background investigation release form, provide official documentation of requisite education and experience, and pay application fees. Counselors cannot obtain licensure if they have had substance abuse or gambling issues in the past two years.

Those at the high school, associate, or bachelor's level of education take the basic ADC, while those with advanced degrees take an advanced examination

CIT applications include information about clinical supervisors, one-year supervision plans, official documentation related to substance abuse coursework and transcripts/certificates, references, and a notarized affidavit with a photo. RAC candidates submit a supervisor evaluation, three professional references, a client case summary, a cover letter, and a licensing fee.

In addition, aspiring Louisiana counselors must take licensure examinations designed by IC&RC. Candidates should consult the guides provided by the organization to determine requirements for their target license. Those at the high school, associate, or bachelor's level of education take the basic ADC, while those with advanced degrees take an advanced examination. Examinations are offered four times a year, and candidates take them by computer at an ISO-Quality Testing Center.

Out-of-state Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Out-of-state substance abuse counselor candidates may earn licensure in Louisiana by following the procedures laid out by IC&RC or by demonstrating that they possess current certifications derived from education and work requirements that are similar to those in Louisiana.

To demonstrate their candidacy for reciprocity, counselors must apply. Reciprocity applications include the following: a cover sheet, a notarized affidavit, an employment history form, a prohibited activity and ethics form, a background check request form, and an exemption from examination form. Copies of prior examination scores and current licensure documents are also required. Reciprocity applicants pay a higher application fee than other applicants.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Addictions counselors renew their licenses annually by LA-ADRA's December 31 or June 30 renewal dates. Those seeking license renewal submit renewal applications through LA-ADRA. Renewal applications include a cover sheet, registration form, supervisor information, copy of a supervisor's card/waiver (if applicable), signed copy of rules, renewal application fees, and documentation of continuing education hours. ATAs and CITs also need to submit a one-year supervisory plan completed by their supervisors. CITs can renew their license up to six times.

ATAs need six LA-ADRA-approved continuing education hours a year, while CITs need 20. Higher level license renewals require at least 48 hours of documented, verified continuing education.

Addictions counselors renew their licenses annually by LA-ADRA's December 31 or June 30 renewal dates

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Louisiana

Whether establishing or advancing their careers, Louisiana addictions counselors and counseling students can turn to resources offered by a variety of addictions counseling professional organizations. In order to prepare and obtain licensure, counselors rely on LA-ADRA and IC&RC. However, many other organizations also improve the addictions counseling practice by connecting counselors with continuing education opportunities, networking opportunities, and current addictions research.

  • International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium IC&RC generates and maintains addiction counseling standards for licensing and certification. It also offers guides and examinations for addictions counselors seeking these credentials.
  • Louisiana Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority Louisiana's state credentialing board, LA-ADRA safeguards the quality of addictions counseling by regulating addiction prevention and treatment practices.
  • Louisiana Association for Addiction Professionals A state branch of the National Association for Addiction Professions, this organization supports addiction counselors, social workers, administrators, educators, and other professionals by providing educational resources, training, and certification rooted in the current, science-based addiction research and practice.
  • Louisiana Association for Addiction and Offender Counselors LAAOC expands the addictions and counseling knowledge of those working with an addicted offender clientele. LAAOC provides resources related to addictions and offender research, counselor education and training, addiction and offense prevention, and advocacy for this population and the professionals who treat them.
  • Louisiana Association of Substance Abuse Counselors and Trainers LASACT improves and advocates for addictions education, treatment, and prevention. The association offers educational workshops, runs the Louisiana Addiction Counselor Training Program, sponsors an annual conference, administers certification tests, and monitors legislation relevant to the addictions field.
  • Louisiana Counseling Association LCA supports addictions counselors by offering awards, a conference, and a mentoring institute. It also oversees a newsletter, journal, web calendar, and listserv.
  • Louisiana Licensed Professional Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors Board of Examiners The LLPVRC Board of Examiners provides Louisiana Vocational Rehabilitation specialists with licensure news, board information, relevant literature, and links to websites. It also performs several functions pertaining to earning, maintaining, and revoking addiction treatment professionals' licensure.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers In addition to providing resources, conferences, networking opportunities, and committees that ensure addiction counseling quality, NAATP performs legal and policy advocacy for addictions professionals.

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