How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Minnesota

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in Minnesota earn an annual median salary of $46,650, well above the national average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area boasts one of the country's highest employment levels for this occupation. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development projects an above average job demand for addiction counselors through the next 10 years.

Unlike most states, Minnesota offers only one level of licensure: the Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC). Depending on the license application method, applicants must meet minimum educational requirements, pass the prescribed examination, and fulfill supervised counseling work experience.

Keep reading to learn more about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Minnesota. You can also explore helpful resources for pursuing a Minnesota counseling career. The following sections provide more detail about the educational and practice requirements for licensure and the application and renewal procedures.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Minnesota

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Education and Experience Requirements

Almost all addiction counseling positions require a postsecondary degree and substantial counseling experience. Minnesota offers different license application methods for obtaining the LADC, each with its own set of requirements. The following sections describe the minimum academic background needed for an alcohol and substance abuse counseling license, the specific course requirements, and the expectations for completing the supervised fieldwork experience.

Academic Requirements

An undergraduate degree in counseling, psychology, sociology, or a related behavioral science field provides a strong foundation for a career in alcohol and substance abuse counseling, especially programs that include a clinical practicum component. In many states, a bachelor's degree represents the minimum educational level for licensure.

In Minnesota, both the standard method and the supervision alternative method of licensure require a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. In addition, the state licensing board asks applicants to complete coursework that reflects the substance abuse counseling role. In some cases, applicants may need to submit syllabi or course descriptions for review.

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

Minnesota's LADC license requires a bachelor's, although individuals may obtain a temporary permit with an associate degree. Applicants must document the completion of 18 semester credits, or 270 clock hours, in specific alcohol and substance abuse coursework areas. These courses cover transdisciplinary substance abuse counseling foundations, pharmacology and the dynamics of addiction, multicultural aspects, professional responsibilities and ethics, and co-occurring disorders.

Coursework must also address core functions of the routine services provided in alcohol and drug treatment programs. These include case management, screening and intake, treatment planning, crisis intervention, and referral.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

Substance abuse programs generally require students to participate in supervised field experiences or practicums. Students interested in becoming a licensed substance abuse counselor should choose a bachelor's program that includes clinical hours that can apply to their licensing requirements. In Minnesota, both the standard method license and the supervision alternative license require a total of 880 hours of practicum experience.

The Exam and Application Process for Minnesota Substance Abuse Counselors

The Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy administers the LADC license. All applicants must undergo a fingerprint-based criminal background check and submit application fees of $295 for the license and $33 for the background investigation. The board offers the following application methods:

Standard Method Application

Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree, 18 semester hours in specific alcohol and drug counseling courses and 880 hours of practicum. Applicants may complete some of the practicum hours as part of their degree program. Licensees need a passing score on either a written comprehensive exam, usually administered by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium or a combination written and oral examination.

Supervision Alternative

Applicants must meet the same requirements for this licensure method as for the standard method, except for the examination component. Applicants using this method may provide results of a passing score on a written exam not considered comprehensive, but they must also complete 2,000 hours of work experience under the direction of a board-approved supervisor.

The 2,000-hour requirement replaces the oral component of the comprehensive exam but must be completed post-degree in addition to the 800-hour practicum requirement. Applicants must submit a supervision plan to the board before beginning their hours, and, upon completion, the supervisor must verify that the hours have been finished in accordance with the submitted plan.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Because states hold different licensing requirements, the Minnesota licensing board reviews applications from out-of-state counselors on a case-by-case basis. Applicants from other jurisdictions seeking licensure by reciprocity must hold an active license in good standing. The out-of-state credentialing agency must send license verification directly to the Minnesota licensing board.

The Minnesota board compares the requirements of the other jurisdiction to determine substantial equivalency to current requirements in Minnesota. The state also grants reciprocity on the basis of national certification, including those obtained through the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals or the National Board for Certified Counselors, provided that the applicant can verify substantially similar requirements.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Minnesota counselors must renew their license every two years. Renewal requires the completion of 40 clock hours of continuing education units within the two-year period, including nine hours on diverse cultural/population groups and three on professional ethics.

License holders need to maintain accurate records of their continuing education activities, such as attendance forms or transcripts, but do not need to submit verification with their renewal application. The state board may conduct random audits to determine if requirements have been met. If selected for audit, license holders must provide their continuing education documentation.

Renewal notices are mailed at least 60 days prior to expiration to the licensee's last known mailing address. Individuals may complete the form online and pay the state's biennial $295 license renewal fee.

Minnesota counselors must renew their license every two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Minnesota

In the section below, you can learn more about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Minnesota. Several state agencies, professional associations, and private organizations offer useful resources for students and others new to the field, addressing areas like prevention, treatment, and recovery services; educational and career opportunities; professional development; advocacy; and research.

  • AVIVO This nonprofit helps low-income individuals and families achieve health, employment, and economic stability. AVIVO offers chemical dependency and mental health counseling services, career education, and employment assistance in the Twin Cities and central Minnesota.
  • Minnesota Addiction Professionals This Minnesota affiliate of the Association for Addiction Professionals unites addiction counselors, educators, and healthcare professionals who specialize in prevention, treatment, recovery, and support. The group addresses standards of practice, public policy, ethics, and professional development and licensing.
  • Minnesota Association of Christian Counselors This professional association represents the interests of Christian mental health counseling professionals who seek to collaborate with others interested in engaging and applying Christian beliefs to support client healing.
  • Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health This professional association represents more than 75 agencies and over 2,000 licensed alcohol and drug counselors, students, and behavioral health professionals throughout Minnesota. MARRCH advocates in public policy areas and provides educational resources for its members.
  • Minnesota Counseling Association This affiliate of the American Counseling Association provides educational resources, advocacy and legislative support, and networking opportunities to Minnesota counseling professionals. The website provides links to professional development opportunities and job listings.
  • Minnesota Free Rehab Centers This online resource provides a database of free, affordable, faith-based, and sliding-scale treatment for the general public and providers seeking assistance locating alcohol, drug, and other recovery and rehabilitation services.
  • Minnesota Prevention Resource Center This website, developed and funded by the Behavioral Health Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, provides information about trainings, publications, and other educational resources to prevent substance abuse.
  • Minnesota Recovery Connection As a member of the Faces and Voices Association of Recovery Community Organizations, the Minnesota affiliate provides training and technical assistance to recovery communities in St. Cloud and Duluth and peer-to-peer support and public education in the state's seven-county metropolitan area.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota This nonprofit supports children and adults dealing with mental illnesses and their families. The group promotes community-based programs and services, addresses public attitudes, improves access, and increases recovery opportunities.
  • OutFront Minnesota This organization provides alcohol and drug addiction resources for the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities. The website offers links to 24-hour crisis counseling, outpatient treatment information, and one-on-one counseling for those struggling with substance abuse.

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