How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in New Mexico

Becoming a substance abuse counselor in New Mexico opens the door to a rewarding career helping people to improve their lives. The demand for substance abuse counselors in New Mexico should continue to grow as the state prioritizes fighting the opioid crisis and reversing its high rate of drug overdose deaths.

This guide covers how to become a substance abuse counselor in New Mexico, detailing the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board's licensing requirements, license application process, and different pathways to become a counselor in the state. New Mexico offers four substance abuse counseling licenses:

  • Licensed Substance Abuse Associate Counselor (LSAA): tiers one, two, and three
  • Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC)

This guide provides details about academic and experience criteria, including required degrees, coursework, and supervised experience. It also explores how to apply for a license as an out-of-state candidate and how to renew a license in New Mexico.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in New Mexico

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in New Mexico here

Education and Experience Requirements

Education and experience requirements for substance abuse counselors in New Mexico vary by license. The following sections discuss the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board's requirements, including degree level, specific coursework, and amount of supervised experience for each type of license.

Academic Requirements

Prospective New Mexico substance abuse counselors must hold an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree from an accredited university to apply for the LSAA or LADAC credential. Candidates must apply for the LSAA first to qualify for the LADAC. New Mexico accepts degrees in addictions, counseling, or a counseling-related behavioral sciences field. The board also considers degrees not related to counseling or addictions on a case-by-case basis.

LSAA applicants must complete 90 clock hours of education and training related to alcohol, drugs, and counseling, while LADAC applicants must complete at least 276 clock hours of education and training.


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

New Mexico requires LSAAs to accumulate 90 clock hours of education in alcohol, drugs, and counseling. LADACs must finish 276 clock hours of education and training in the following areas:

  • Alcohol abuse (90 hours)
  • Drug abuse (90 hours)
  • Counseling (90 hours)
  • Alcohol and drug counseling ethics training (six hours)

The board does not require LSAAs or LADACs to complete specific courses. As part of the application process, prospective substance abuse counselors must demonstrate completion of required education and training hours.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

The board does not require LSAAs to complete supervised practice experience before applying for their license. Required postgraduate supervised work experience for LADACs varies by degree level. Applicants with an associate degree need 3,000 postgraduate supervised work hours over three years, individuals with a bachelor's degree need 2,000 postgraduate supervised work hours over two years, and individuals with a master's degree need 1,000 postgraduate supervised work hours over one year.

The Exam and Application Process for New Mexico Substance Abuse Counselors

The licensure and certification process differs between counseling specializations in New Mexico. To become a counselor in New Mexico, individuals must be at least 21 years old and hold an associate degree. The board offers four substance abuse counseling licenses:

  • LSAA (tiers one, two, and three)
  • LADAC

LSAAs can provide one-on-one counseling but must work under a clinical supervisor. LADACs can work independently without a clinical supervisor. All drug and alcohol counselors in New Mexico start the pathway to licensure by applying for an LSAA credential.

Tier-one LSAAs hold an associate degree, tier-two LSAAs hold a bachelor's degree, and tier-three LSAAs hold a master's degree. LSAAs must submit proof that they have found an appropriate supervisor and created an experience plan. LSAAs do not need to pass an exam. LADAC applicants of all educational backgrounds must pass the National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC) examination, Level I.

The application review process usually takes 10-15 business days. Prospective New Mexico substance abuse counselors must submit the following items when they apply for licensure:

  • Completed application
  • Application fee
  • Current color photograph
  • Official college transcripts
  • Documentation of required supervised experience
  • Official scores from the required National Board of Certified Counselors Exam (for the LADAC credential)

Out-of-state Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

Addictions counselors who hold a valid state-issued license in another state can apply to become a substance abuse counselor in New Mexico. They must also pass either the NCAC, Level I test or the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium exam.

New Mexico also offers a simplified licensure process for out-of-state military service members, their spouses, and veterans. Candidates must submit an application and fee; proof of honorable discharge, a military ID card, or military spouse status; and proof that they hold an equivalent license in another state (including a branch of the armed forces).

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Substance abuse counselors in New Mexico must renew their licenses every two years. The state sends out renewal notices in July, and licenses expire September 30. Counselors can apply to renew their licenses online and must pay a $150 renewal fee.

Substance abuse counselors in New Mexico must renew their licenses every two years

Renewal applicants must also submit proof of 40 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. These should include six hours of continuing education in professional ethics. Individuals in supervisory roles must also complete three continuing education hours in supervision each renewal period. New Mexico may award continuing education credit for courses approved by certifying groups, professional organizations, and regulatory boards.

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in New Mexico

Professional addictions counselors and students benefit from many substance abuse resources and organizations in New Mexico. The following list features state and national resources, including professional organizations, sites that host data and research information, treatment providers and organizations, and state counselor licensing information.

  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers Founded in 1978, NAATP is a nonprofit, professional group for addiction treatment providers. The organization offers law and policy advocacy, along with clinical and operational resources.
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA is one of 17 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health. This institute coordinates national research related to alcoholism and alcohol abuse.
  • New Mexico Alliance of Addiction Professionals Operating as the New Mexico chapter of the Association for Addiction Professionals, this group represents substance abuse and addiction professionals in the state. Members can serve on the group's advisory committee.
  • New Mexico Credentialing Board for Behavioral Health Professionals The NMCBBHP provides certifications to qualified drug and alcohol counselors and other counseling professionals in New Mexico. The board is a member of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.
  • New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention This website offers information about service providers, substance abuse prevention services, evaluation instruments, and evaluation reports in the state.
  • New Mexico's Indicator-based Information System NM-IBIS offers a variety of information relevant to public health issues in New Mexico. Students and professionals can explore data sets, health indicator reports, health topics, and additional resources.
  • Substance Abuse Epidemiology Program This program is coordinated by the New Mexico Department of Health and collects and analyzes data related to substance abuse in the state. Its website offers publications, health data, and other resources.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration An agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA seeks to improve mental health and decrease substance abuse in the country. The agency leads national prevention programs and research efforts related to behavioral health.
  • Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions A multidisciplinary research center at the University of New Mexico, CASAA coordinates prevention and treatment research. CASAA houses the UNM Campus Office of Substance Abuse Prevention.
  • Recovery Connection This website, run by Lakeview Health, offers information about recovery, addiction, and substance abuse. The site includes glossaries, guides, preventative information, treatment services, and other resources.

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