How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Maine

Thousands of people in Maine suffer from addictions to opioids or other substances. According to research conducted by the University of Maine in 2018, the state lost one person per day to opioid addiction overdose. Given these statistics, the need for substance abuse counselors in Maine is acute.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 23% growth in the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health counselors across the U.S. between 2016 and 2026. This guide outlines the education and certification requirements needed to become a substance abuse counselor in Maine.

Depending on their career goals, aspiring substance abuse counselors can pursue three forms of certification or licensure in Maine. Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors (CADCs) work for agencies, Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADCs) work for agencies or private practices, and Certified Clinical Supervisors (CCSs) supervise other counselors.

Although each form of licensure has different requirements, all licenses are awarded by Maine's Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors. The information below connects aspiring counselors to professional resources and guidance, preparing them to obtain and maintain the credentials they need for this career.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Maine

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Education and Experience Requirements

Those interested in becoming Maine substance abuse counselors need to obtain one or more forms of licensure from Maine's Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors. An adult with a high school diploma or GED can become an alcohol and drug counseling aid (ADCA) if they can gain entry-level employment at a facility that provides substance abuse counseling services.

Meanwhile, those seeking a CADC, LADC, or CCS credential require relevant higher education and/or work experience, as outlined below. They must also pass licensing exams.

Academic Requirements

The ADCA license does not require higher education or prior work experience; these professionals obtain licensure at the discretion of the agency where they work. Licensed supervisors supervise an ADCA's work. Those who do not hold a degree but have over 30 credits of relevant college coursework may quality for a CADC license, provided they also possess the required work experience hours described below. LADCs with the requisite work experience can also qualify for licensure without higher education.

Although earning a Maine substance abuse counseling license does not require a higher education degree, a related associate, bachelor's, or graduate degree provides a strong foundation for an individual's counseling education and career and reduces the number of work experience hours needed for licensure.

In addition to addictions-related degrees, the following degrees provide relevant preparation for licensure in Maine: childhood development, educational psychology, rehabilitation services, social sciences, education and human development, mental health and human services, nursing, social work, social sciences, and nursing.

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

Individuals can qualify for a CADC license without any higher education if they possess at least 4,000 hours of related work experience — at least 200 of these hours must be supervised.

Individuals can also qualify for the CADC credential by earning an associate degree or completing at least 30 credits of accredited higher education coursework in one or more of the following areas: chemical dependency, addiction, cultural competency, crisis intervention, psychology, mental health and aging, group processes, dual diagnosis, psychosocial rehabilitation, community mental health, case management, sexual abuse/trauma recovery, social service systems, or vocational aspects of disability.

Individuals can qualify for a CADC license without any higher education if they possess at least 4,000 hours of related work experience

Candidates certified by the University of Maine as substance abuse technicians — or by the University of Southern Maine as mental health rehabilitation technicians — also qualify to apply for CADC licensure.

Those pursuing an LADC license can qualify with 6,000 hours of work experience (with at least 300 supervised hours); however, earning a related associate or bachelor's degree reduces the work experience requirement to 4,000 hours. Additionally, a related master's degree or possession of CADC certification further reduces the LADC work requirement to 2,000 hours.

Lastly, those wishing to become a CCS must have prior mental health licensure, 1,000 hours of licensed substance abuse counseling work, and 30 training hours in several specific topic areas, as outlined below.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Maine CADCs with 30 or more relevant higher education coursework credits can obtain their initial certification without work experience. However, to qualify for an LADC, those who hold an associate or bachelor's degree need 4,000 hours of related work experience (equivalent to two years of full-time employment) at an agency under the supervision of a certified clinical supervisor. For master's degree holders, this experience requirement is reduced to 2,000 hours (about one year working full time).

Maine CCSs need 1,000 hours work experience (about six months full time) as LADCs, as well as six training hours in each of the following areas (30 hours total): evaluation and skills assessment, professional responsibility, counselor development, and management or administration.

Whereas ADCAs require assistance and supervision, the work of CADCs and LADCs requires supervision only. A CCS supervises the work of ADCAs, CADCs, and LADCs, and these workers do not require their own supervision.

The Exam and Application Process for Maine Substance Abuse Counselors

In addition to the required work experience and/or higher education outlined above, Maine's Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors requires that those seeking substance abuse counseling licensure also pass examinations issued by IC&RC. Aspiring CADCs and LADCs sit for the Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) exam, and LADC license applicants also complete an advanced ADC exam. Meanwhile, CCS license applicants complete a clinical supervisor exam.

The process to apply for substance abuse counseling examination and licensure involves several steps:

  1. Contact Maine's Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors to apply and register for the appropriate examination. This step includes submitting the education and work experience documentation required for the desired license.
  2. Pass the exam. The board suggests individuals use IC&RC's online study guides when preparing for examinations.
  3. Apply for licensure and submit a licensure processing fee and background check fee. The application package includes examination results, a 10-year driving record, official court documents for any crime convictions, and any current or prior license verifications.

Out-of-state Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Counselors with an out-of-state credential earned from an IC&RC member board (and satisfactory exam results) often qualify for reciprocity through endorsement, which allows them to obtain Maine licensure more easily. Professionals seeking to relocate to Maine follow the following steps:

  1. Candidates should contact an IC&RC member board in Maine to identify requirements.
  2. Then, individuals should reach out to their current state board for a reciprocity application and submit all required documents. For example, out-of-state licensed counselors seeking Maine licensure must provide documentation of all past and current counseling licenses, and some may need to pass an examination.
  3. Upon submission of all relevant documents, applicants must wait for approval. A worker's current board approves their application and sends it to IC&RC for approval. IC&RC notifies the counselor of approval and passes the application on to Maine's board, which notifies the counselor once the application has received final approval.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Maine substance abuse counselors must renew their licenses every two years by fulfilling continuing education requirements. To renew licensure, ADCAs need 12 continuing education hours, CADCs need 24, LADCs need 36, and CCSs need a total of 48. Those seeking license renewal submit a renewal application, which includes continuing education verification in the form of transcripts or certificates.

Maine substance abuse counselors must renew their licenses every two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Maine

Aspiring addictions professionals in Maine can benefit from membership in a professional organization, which promote addictions counseling education and career advancement. Some of these organizations play an integral role in obtaining and maintaining counseling licensure, and most of them accept future or current addictions counseling students for membership. Professional organizations connect members with educational addictions counseling resources, events, and peer networks.

  • Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network ATTC — an international, interdisciplinary organization — maintains a number of public health centers focused on addiction, HIV, and other public health issues. ATTC also offers training, events, and a catalog of products and resources for addictions professionals. It also has a monthly e-publication of news and information.
  • International Association for Addictions and Offender Counselors IAAOC offers resources, conferences, awards, and publications relevant to those in the addiction counseling field. Additionally, IAAOC oversees committees on a variety of topics relevant to the field, publishes a newsletter and journal, and puts out podcasts and webinars.
  • International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium IC&RC establishes licensing, certification, and other credentialing standards for addictions professionals. This international organization works collaboratively with state and other boards to provide certification guides and qualifying examinations to ensure that counselors remain up to date on addictions research and counseling best practices.
  • Maine Association for Addiction Professionals This state affiliate of NAADAC represents Maine professionals working in the addictions field. Individuals can access professional events, networking opportunities, continuing education, and other resources.
  • Maine's Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors This board supports quality addictions treatment by providing licensing information, evaluating counselor qualifications, and granting licensure to qualified counselors. The board also investigates complaints and revokes licensure when necessary.
  • Maine Counseling Association MeCA publishes a newsletter, posts professional development opportunities, offers events, and provides a blog for counselor discussions and networking.
  • Maine Mental Health Counselors Association MEMHCA — a branch of the American Mental Health Counselors Association — serves licensed clinical professional counselors by offering advocacy, education, and opportunities for leadership and cooperation.
  • The Association for Addiction Professionals NAADAC seeks to ensure quality care for individuals by keeping the profession current with the latest scientific research on addiction. To this end, NAADAC provides clinical training, certification, and education for addiction counselors.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers NAATP advocates for, leads, and trains addiction treatment professionals through law and policy advocacy, an annual leadership conference, and an employment center. NAATP also offers networking and other resources pertaining to addictions, industry measures, surveys, ethics, and professionalism.
  • Society of Addiction Psychology A division of the American Psychological Association, SoAP advances research and practice for treating substance abuse and behavioral disorders. In addition to publishing a newsletter and a peer-reviewed journal, SoAP offers resources, training, awards, listservs, and member benefits.

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