Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC): Addiction Counselor License Requirements in Montana

Montana substance abuse counselors are licensed by the Department of Labor and Industry. The official title is Licensed Addiction Counselor, or LAC. Addiction counselors must be licensed unless exempt under state code.

Licensure is based on post-secondary education, supervised experience, and examination. The Department also grants a clinical supervisor credential. The National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) has noted that Montana has licensing categories corresponding to the higher levels of the SAMHSA Consensus Group Career Ladder and Scope of Practice. Correspondence is approximate. Like other states, Montana sets its own credentialing standards through laws and regulations.

Although the Montana Licensed Addiction Counselors Program does not issue different licenses based on degree level, some employers do. Substance abuse counselors may also be hired on the strength of social work or clinical counseling licenses; these pathways have a greater education obligation.

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Educational Requirements for the LAC Credential

A prospective LAC must meet academic requirements. Varying amounts of coursework will be required. If the degree is at the associate's level, it must be in addiction, substance abuse, or drug and alcohol studies. Degrees at the bachelor's level or higher may be in drug and alcohol studies or in other related fields such as counseling, psychology, sociology, or social work.

A comparable degree program can be accepted if it includes three credit hours in psychopathology or abnormal behavior, nine credit hours in counseling, and six credit hours in a field such as psychology, sociology, or human behavior. The current application asks the applicant to document counseling coursework in two separate categories: counseling theory and group counseling.

The licensing agency can, in some cases, also accept a one-year certificate program designed to prepare chemical dependency counselors. If the program is not explicitly approved by the Department, it must be recognized in another state. It must include at least 400 hours of classroom education and 1,600 hours of chemical dependency clinical training.

In each instance, the prospective licensee will need at least 270 hours of education in Department-mandated content areas. These hours do not have to be part of a formal academic program; approved workshops or home study courses can be credited. The following represent minimum standards:

  • Alcohol and drug studies: 30 hours
  • Chemical dependency assessment and placement: 30 hours
  • Counseling: 45 hours
  • Treatment planning and documentation: 15 hours
  • Pharmacology: 12 hours
  • Multicultural competency: 12 hours
  • Ethics for addiction counselors: 6 hours

Generally speaking, 15 contact hours is the equivalent of one semester hour. The 12 clock hour requirement is to be met with a full semester hour course. The application packet includes detailed information about quarter hour and semester hour equivalencies.

Individuals who already hold qualifying degrees may enroll in post-degree certificate programs of about 12 semester hours.

Prospective LACs who do not hold degrees may want to use the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network (ATTC) directory as a starting point ( The directory lists programs specifically in addiction counseling.

Additional Requirements for the LAC License

The prospective licensee will need 1,000 hours (the equivalent of six full-time months) of supervised practice. Supervisees must maintain weekly timesheets; the form can be found in the application packet. Montana has set minimum hours in each of eleven identified skill areas. The trainee must perform at least 100 hours of group counseling, 60 hours of individual counseling, and 50 hours of case management. Experience must be accrued in a qualified treatment setting. It can take the form of internship, paid work experience, or volunteer work (provided that all requirements are met).

The candidate will take the National Certification Examination at Level 1 after completing his or her supervised practice requirement. Instructions are found in the ‘additional forms’ section of the website ( The NCC is under the banner of the Association of Addiction Counselors (NAADAC).

Candidates may wish to order study guides. The licensing agency advises them to contact NAADAC directly; they may call 1-800-548-0497.

The Application Process

Prospective LACs will apply for temporary practice permits after educational requirements have been met.

Application packets can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Labor and Industry ( The packet includes paperwork that will be completed on a regular basis as the supervisee works toward requirements for full licensure.

There is a $200 LAC application fee.

Licenses are renewed annually. Licensed Addiction Counselors currently complete 20 hours of continuing education each year.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselors

Out-of-state substance abuse counselors must submit verification from all states where they have held licensing. Endorsement applicants may document 2,000 hours of qualifying experience. According to the application packet, an endorsement applicant can be licensed on the basis of an examination comparable to the NCC Level 1. Individuals with questions may wish to contact the Licensed Addiction Counselors Program.

Additional Information

Licensing information is available from the Montana Licensed Addiction Counselors Program ( The Program can be reached by telephone at (406) 841-2203 or by email at ‘dlibsdlac at’. Rules are found in Chapter 24 of state code (

The Montana Association of Alcoholism and Addiction Counselors is an additional professional resource ( This is the state chapter of NAADAC, the organization that developed the examination that is used for licensing purposes in Montana.

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