How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Massachusetts

By Staff Writer

Substance abuse counselors enjoy a rewarding career helping people with addiction and behavioral problems. As the demand for counselors rises, substance abuse counselors also enjoy strong job security.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for substance abuse counselors is growing much faster than average, with a projected job growth of 22% from 2018-2028. For the 16,120 substance abuse counselors in Massachusetts, BLS estimates the average salary for this specialty of counselors to be $47,530 in 2019.

For those who want to know how to become a substance abuse counselor in Massachusetts, the process begins with meeting the minimum education and licensing requirements. A bachelor's degree, and sometimes a master's degree is generally required and experience is highly recommended. Graduates must also complete a state-sanctioned exam to become licensed.

Keep reading for an overview on how to become a substance abuse counselor in Massachusetts. You can also explore useful resources for pursuing a Massachusetts counseling career.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Massachusetts

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Massachusetts here

Education and Experience Requirements

The first step to becoming a substance abuse counselor is completing the education requirements. Substance abuse counselors often complete more than the minimum requirements to improve their chances of finding a position.

Academic Requirements

A bachelor's degree in addiction counseling is highly recommended for any prospective counselors. Alternatively, a bachelor's degree in behavioral science or a related field can suffice. Individuals must complete their coursework at an approved education provider. Doing so helps satisfy the state's certification requirements.

Massachusetts requires 270 hours of approved addiction counseling education. Students can complete this requirement while earning a degree. Students must also complete a minimum of 300 hours in a practicum or internship. They may fulfill this requirement while pursuing a degree.

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

Substance abuse counselors need at least a bachelor's in psychology. Bachelor's programs often require 120 credits, or 40 courses, and take four years to complete. Prospective substance abuse counselors should expect courses related to addiction and medicine.

One common course, psychology of addiction counseling, teaches the skills needed to work with people struggling with addiction. Another course, substance abuse counseling, explores the different types of substance abuse and fundamentals for counseling in the field. Massachusetts doesn't require specific courses, but students must demonstrate their expertise through internship experience and supervised practice.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Individuals need at least 300 hours of supervised practicum or internship experience as well as an additional 6,000 hours of supervised clinical experience in the field for eligibility to be a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC). The Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification (MBSACC) must approve of where students earn these hours, so prospective substance abuse counselors should ensure their experience is eligible.

Substance abuse counselors need at least a bachelor's in psychology

The Exam and Application Process for Massachusetts Substance Abuse Counselors

Two types of licenses for substance abuse counselors exist in Massachusetts: LADC I and LADC II. The Bureau of Substance Addiction Services offers both through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

LADC I is a license for substance abuse counselors who want to work in an independent practice.

LADC II is a license for substance abuse counselors who want to work under clinical supervision.

Both have similar requirements, including:

  • A minimum of 270 hours of education related to substance abuse counseling
  • 6,000 hours of related, supervised work experience
  • 300 hours of supervised training
  • Three recommendation letters
  • Licensing fees

Some differences do exist though. LADC I applicants need a master's or doctoral degree in behavioral science. Individuals need a minimum of a high school diploma for LADC II eligibility. Also, applicants with a bachelor's degree can reduce the required hours of supervised work for LADC II eligibility.

After satisfying the minimum requirements for either the LADC I or II, applicants must take the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) exam for Substance Abuse Counselors. In Massachusetts, this is only offered through the MBSACC.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Thanks to reciprocity, anyone who has a current, valid license in another state can become licensed in Massachusetts without taking any exam. Candidates must also supply a written verification from their original licensing state that they are in good standing.

Massachusetts does not require practicing substance abuse counselors to reside in Massachusetts.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Every two years, both LADC I and II licenses must be renewed. A minimum of 40 hours of continuing education is required for each renewal. Also, current license holders must supply a copy of their government identification and pay a license renewal fee.

Students can complete the renewal process entirely online up to 90 days prior to the expiration date.

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Massachusetts

Current and future substance abuse counselors have many resources at their disposal to learn new theories regarding substance abuse counseling, find open positions, and connect with other students or professionals. Some of the top local, national, and international resources and organizations include:

  • AddictionCounselorCE As the name implies, AddictionCounselorCE provides continuing education credits to current substance abuse professionals. Courses to meet state and national requirements are available via the site.
  • American Counseling Association The ACA is the world's largest organization dedicated entirely to counselors. Substance abuse counselors can find job openings, continuing education courses, and other resources related to substance abuse.
  • International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium This international consortium provides current and future substance abuse counseling professionals with exams and credentialing, along with internationally accepted certifications.
  • Massachusetts Association for Alcoholic and Drug Abuse Counselors, Inc. MAADAC is a regional affiliate of NAADAC that provides Massachusetts-based professionals with education and resources. The organization hosts local events for regional substance abuse counselors.
  • The Massachusetts Board of Substance Abuse Counselor Certification While not technically part of the Department of Health, the MBSACC provides information and testing for all local forms of substance abuse counseling certification and licensing.
  • Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Addiction Services This state agency provides local substance abuse counselors with all the information they might need, from training and workforce development to programs funded by the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services.
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Another federal program, the NIAAA, part of the National Institutes of Health, is an excellent source for substance abuse counselors who seek funding. Research training is also available through the NIAAA.
  • Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association, Inc. Many substance abuse counselors have a degree related to mental health. MaMHCA offers conferences, training, certification, networking, and a job board for current professionals and students.
  • NAADAC Also known as the Association for Addiction Professionals, NAADAC provides a platform for substance abuse counselor advocacy, education, and certification. The group also hosts conferences across the nation.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA is a federal agency that focuses on mental health and substance abuse. Professionals can use SAMHSA to find internships and jobs, connect with other professionals, and find grants and funding.

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