Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor Requirements in New Mexico

New Mexico substance abuse counselors are licensed by the Counseling and Therapy Practice Board, the same Board that licenses mental health practitioners such as marriage and family therapists and art therapists. Substance abuse counselors are known as Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors, or LADACs. Licensure is mandatory unless a person falls under a very limited set of exemptions. A professional can attain the same level of licensing with a degree at any level (associate's to graduate), but the timeframe will be different.

Scope of practice is defined by statute ( LADACs have a more limited scope of practice than some Board licensees. Some master's educated substance abuse counselors will qualify for other mental health licenses such as mental health counselor. The LADAC is not the sole path into the alcohol and drug counseling profession.

The Board has a lower designation, Licensed Substance Abuse Associate. This classification, too, requires an associate's degree. The degree is to be in substance abuse or a counseling-related field. However, the Board can consider exceptions on a case by case basis. LSAAs work under supervision plans. A person can become a LSAA with 90 hours of education in Board-mandated topics. The person can work under LSAA credentialing while pursuing the LADAC.

All licensees must be at least 21 years of age.

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LADAC Educational Requirements

A prospective LADAC must earn a qualifying degree. It is generally expected that the degree be in a field related to counseling or substance abuse, whatever the level. However, individuals who hold master’s or doctoral degrees in other fields may be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The applicant will need at least 276 hours of education in Board-mandated areas, whatever his or her educational level. At least 90 hours will be in each of the following content areas: alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and counseling. At least six hours will be ethics training that specifically relates to drug and alcohol abuse counseling; these six hours must be recent (acquired in the two year period preceding application).

Supervised Practice Requirements

Prospective LADACs must complete a supervised practice requirement. While acquiring experience, the individual will be under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional. The supervisor may be an experienced alcohol and drug counselor or a clinical mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, independent social worker, art therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical nurse specialist with substance abuse specialty.

New Mexico has set minimum timeframes for acquiring experience as well as minimum client contact hours. Requirements are as follows:

Prospective LADACs who hold associate degree will need at least three years of experience. They must accrue 3,000 client contact hours and have 200 hours of supervision.

Those with bachelor's degree will need at least two years of experience. They will need to accrue at least 2,000 client contact hours and have 100 hours of supervision.

Those with master's or doctoral degrees will need one year of experience. They will need to accrue 1,000 client contact hours and have 50 hours of supervision.

The Application and Examination Process

Applications can be downloaded from the Board website (

The applicant will need to submit an official transcript from each school where he or she took coursework that contributed to the degree. The required clock hours of alcohol, drug, and counseling education can be documented through certificates of completion; these should be attached to a documentation form found in the application. The form for documenting experience is also included in the application packet.

The application requires notarization. A passport-quality photograph should be attached. Application materials are to be submitted with a $75 fee to the New Mexico Counseling and Practice Board in Santa Fe.

Candidates can expect to take the qualifying examination after they have met other requirements and had their applications approved. A person who has met all requirements except examination may be granted a temporary license.

Candidates are referred to the Association of Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) for general examination information.

License by Credentials

A substance abuse counselor who is licensed or certified in another state or nation may be licensed by credential in New Mexico. He or she will need to have passed one of two qualifying examinations: the NCAC Level I exam or the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) exam.

An applicant for licensure by credentials will submit the verification form included in the application package en lieu of documentation of post-graduate practice or required hours of counseling and alcohol and drug studies.

Renewal Requirements

The counselor is responsible for completing 40 hours of continuing education during each two year period. There is an ethics requirement.

Additional Information

Licensing information is available from the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board ( The Board can be reached by telephone at (505) 476-4610.

The New Mexico Credentialing Board for Behavioral Health Professionals provides voluntary credentials in alcohol and drug counseling and related fields ( The NMCBBHP is a member of the IC&RC and as such, enjoys reciprocity with many boards around the United States.

The New Mexico Alliance of Addiction Professionals is an additional professional resource ( This is the state chapter of NAADAC, a national professional association.

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