How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Maryland

People who suffer from drug addiction and alcoholism often seek help from substance abuse counselors. These counseling professionals take charge of evaluating their patients, creating a workable treatment with practical goals, and helping involved friends and family create a better environment for the addict.

Substance abuse, mental health, and behavioral disorder counselors enjoy high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of substance abuse counselor positions to grow by 23% from 2016-2026. During that same time period in Maryland, substance abuse counselors can expect 330 job openings per year, on average.

Aspiring substance abuse counselors in Maryland must first complete the minimum education requirements. Depending on their licensing or certification of choice, candidates may have to complete a master's degree. Though it may take several years of education to become a substance abuse counselor, the profession offers secure employment and opportunities to help real people.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Maryland

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Maryland here

Education and Experience Requirements

Substance abuse counselors must earn an associate, a bachelor's, or a master's degree from an accredited university. Prospective substance abuse counselors who plan to work in Maryland should pursue their degrees in-state to guarantee they meet Maryland's licensing or certification requirements.

Academic Requirements

Anyone planning to become a certified supervised counselor for alcohol and drugs (CSC-AD) must complete at least an associate degree in counseling. Those aiming to become certified associate counselors for alcohol and drugs (CAC-AD) must complete at least a bachelor's degree in counseling or a related field.

To become a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselors (LCADC), individuals should complete at least a master's degree in human services or counseling at a regionally accredited university. Prospective counselors may also pursue a licensed graduate alcohol and drug counselor (LGADC) credential, which features similar education requirements as the LCADC.

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

The courses required to become a substance abuse counselor depend on the candidate's chosen certification or license. Students should prepare for a 60-credit associate degree, at minimum. Bachelor's degrees in counseling require around 120 credits, and master's programs typically require 36 credits.

Coursework combines counseling and psychology. Students may choose specializations to concentrate their studies on specific substance abuse courses. Typical courses include counseling skills, in which students learn to create a counseling framework, and healthcare ethics, which examines the ethical implications of specific counseling practices.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Prospective substance abuse counselors should expect to complete an internship and 1,000-2,000 hours of approved, supervised substance abuse counseling work. The CSC-AD, CAC-AD, and LGADC require 1,000 hours over one year, while the LCADC requires 2,000 hours over two years. Learners must complete these requirements at an approved location, so they should plan on practicing in Maryland.

The Exam and Application Process for Maryland Substance Abuse Counselors

Maryland offers two types of licenses and two types of certifications, and candidates' credential choices determine their potential workplace. The two certifications, CSC-AD and CAC-AD, require less education than the licenses do, but limit professionals regarding where they can practice. Similarly, the LGADC license does not offer as many potential options as the LCADC. LCADC substance abuse counselors can work wherever they please, including private practice.

  • To become a CSC-AD or CAC-AD, individuals must complete the NCAC I or NCAC II, respectively. The National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors offers both exams.
  • To become a LGADC or LCADC, individuals must complete the master addiction counselor (MAC) certification exam through NAADAC.

After taking their exam, candidates may complete their credential application through the Maryland Department of Health's website. Each certification and license entails its own application, so applicants must make sure they download the correct form. On the application, students must demonstrate their education level by supplying information on each counseling-related course they took. Each application mandates a minimal fee, as well, plus a criminal history records check.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Out-of-state substance abuse counselors hoping to work in Maryland must first apply for certification. A current license, prior education, supervised experience, and verification of professional experience should suffice for approval. Individuals must also take and pass exams, including the Maryland state law test. Specific exam requirements vary. Education standards often prove the toughest part of this application, as applicants must have earned their credits at an accredited school. The process requires specific courses, as well, though they vary depending by license and certification. Applicants must pay a fee.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

To maintain licensure, substance abuse counselors must take 40 hours of continuing education before their license's renewal date. Licenses and certifications expire after two years, at which point professionals must demonstrate completion of continuing education course requirements. The renewal process requires an application and fees.

Licenses and certifications expire after two years, at which point professionals must demonstrate completion of continuing education course requirements

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Maryland

Substance abuse counselors in Maryland benefit from many local, state, and national resources and organizations, which provide networking, continuing education credits, additional certifications, job boards, and communities of other counselors. Students can use these resources to learn more about the field and begin the process of becoming substance abuse counselors.

  • American Academy of Health Care Providers Referred to by members as The Academy, this organization provides internationally recognized credentialing for counselors, including substance abuse counselors. It proves a useful resource for Maryland counselors looking to expand their practice out-of-state.
  • The American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, Inc. The AATOD aims to enhance patient care programs, specifically for those suffering from opioid addiction. Substance abuse counselors interested in this specialty can use the AATOD to connect with other professionals and learn new ways to reach patients.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine ASAM, a national organization with regional chapters, offers education and resources to student members. Current professionals benefit from the society's events and conferences.
  • City of Baltimore Behavioral Health System Despite its name, the City of Baltimore refers students and professionals to substance abuse organizations and businesses across Maryland. This resource benefits anyone searching for internships or jobs.
  • Maryland Association of Addiction Professionals A regional extension of NAADAC, MAAP offers a local resource for Maryland counselors. Members enjoy access to an extensive network, and MAAP offers workshops, events, and conferences for its members.
  • Maryland Department of Health The department of health proves the best resource for aspiring substance abuse counselors. It takes charge of certification and licensing, providing resources to help students prepare their applications.
  • NAADAC Founded in 1972, NAADAC represents over 100,000 counselors. It offers continuing education opportunities, professional development, a platform for counselor advocacy, conferences, and the exams required by Maryland.
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA represents one of the top organizations for alcohol abuse research and funding. Current professionals can find grant money through NIAAA, and students can learn more about developments in alcohol abuse research.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse This federal program focuses on researching the drive behind drug use. Substance abuse counselors focusing on drug use can find materials for their research and find connections for potential project funding.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration The U.S. government's resource for all things substance abuse-related, the administration helps substance abuse counselors find grants, training, and other helpful resources.

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