Substance Abuse Counselor Certification in North Carolina: Steps to becoming a CSAC, LCAS and LCAC

North Carolina substance abuse counselors are credentialed by the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board (NCSAPPB). The Board is a member of an international organization, the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, or IC&RC. Though a corporation, the Board is statutorily recognized.

There are multiple levels of credentialing. Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist is a master's level credential; it is considered "independent level". LCACs have a broad scope of practice that can include diagnosis of mental disorders.

Certified Substance Abuse Counselor is the lower level. Academic degrees are not mandatory at this level. A person can begin his or her career at the CSAC level and progress to LCAS after pursuing a graduate degree and passing a second examination. A person who holds a qualifying healthcare license can also receive a substance abuse counseling credential.

While meeting experience requirements for CSAC, a person may be registered with the Board or may be designated as a Substance Abuse Counselor Intern. Intern is a slightly higher status than what is granted by initial registration; a person must be further along the path to full certification.

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Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC) Requirements

Certification is based on education, examination, and supervised practice. The foundation may be a high school diploma, GED, or college degree.

The prospective CSAC will need 270 hours of approved education. At least 190 of these hours must be specific to the discipline. NCSAPPB requires six hours each of education in psychopathology, nicotine dependence, substance abuse among the elderly, substance abuse among veteran populations, evidence-based treatment, infectious diseases, and ethics. It is not necessary to complete the 270 hours before registration. However, the individual will need to have had three hours of ethics training.

North Dakota schools that offer substance abuse specialty must hold approval.

The prospective CSAC will need to complete a 300-hour practicum. It must include training in each of 12 core functions.

The individual will also need to pass a computer-delivered examination. After meeting practicum and examination requirements, he or she will move up to intern status.

The prospective CSAC will work under supervision until 6,000 hours of experience have been accrued.

The trainee will register at the onset ( This will allow a five-year timeframe for completion of requirements. An individual who fails to meet certification requirements during this time period will need to re-apply.

A prospective substance abuse counselor can search for potential supervisors using the NCSAPPB member search (

Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist/Counselor (LCAS) Requirements

A person who seeks to become an LCAC can follow any of several education and training pathways. A person who completes a master's degree with a clinical focus that does not include an approved substance abuse concentration will need two years (4,000 hours) of post-degree experience. He or she will need 180 hours of education that is specific to substance abuse. It must include particular courses. These are similar to those at the CSAS level; education in clinical supervision is also required.

A person who completes a master's degree that includes a clinical focus and a substance abuse concentration may qualify for licensure with just one year of post-degree experience. A person who has been certified at the lower level and subsequently completes a master's program that includes a clinical focus may be licensed without further supervised practice.

A list of ‘Criteria C’ schools is available on the NCSAPPB website. It includes counseling, social work, and psychology programs that include a concentration in substance abuse. In order to qualify, a person must complete the qualifying master's program; a person who completes a separate master's and then pursues a certificate through one of these schools is not Criteria C. (Any person seeking initial certification or licensure who is not Criteria C can expect to have some additional requirements imposed.)

In each of these instances, the prospective LCAC will need to complete the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) examination. He or she will need to provide three references.

Deemed status can be granted to healthcare professionals who hold qualifying substance abuse certifications; this pathway is referred to as Category D. Social workers who hold Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs (ATOD) certification through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are required to take the AADC examination.

The Application Process

Application instructions are found in the "credentialing" section of the NCSAPPB website. The actual application can be submitted online ( NCSAPPB has provided a manual for each certification category that includes detailed instructions about each stage of the credentialing process.

A trainee will need a supervision agreement. The certification agency will also seek a current job description.

The applicant will need to scan and upload a document that demonstrates that he or she has met at least the minimum educational requirement.

The individual will also need to provide a background check of $38.

The registration fee is $125 at either level.

The prospective licensee or certificate holder will agree to be bound by a code of ethics.

References and supervisory documents will be required before certification is granted.

Certification is issued for two years. Certificate holders must meet a continuing education requirement.


An Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) or Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) credentialed by another IC&RC member board can transfer his or her credential to North Carolina, but will need to have a background check ( The counselor must go through an abbreviated application process.

Additional Information

Credentialing information is available from the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professionals Practice Board ( NCSAPPB can be reached at 919-832-5975. Additional contact information is available online (

The Addiction Professionals of North Carolina is an additional professional resource ( It is the state affiliate of the national professional association, NAADAC

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