Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in North Dakota: The Path to Becoming a Licensed Addiction Counselor

North Dakota substance abuse counselors are licensed by the North Dakota Board of Addiction Counseling Examiners (NDBACE). They are known as Licensed Addiction Counselors. The same board approves training programs, licenses addiction counselors, and registers experienced counselors for independent practice and/ or supervisory duty.

North Dakota has high standards. Addiction counselors have college degrees and the equivalent of approximately one year of academic studies in addiction. Individuals who train in North Dakota meet a very specific set of training and education requirements, one that is not identical to that of any national certification agency. North Dakota did in the recent past, however, take steps to encourage national certification through the Association of Addiction Professionals, noting that many employers seek the credential.

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Educational Requirements

The prospective LAC must earn a degree at the baccalaureate or graduate level. There are two options. The student may complete an addiction counseling program that holds one of the following programmatic accreditations:

  • Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  • International Coalition for Addiction Studies and Education Accreditation
  • National Addiction Studies Accreditation Committee

The other option is to complete a degree in a closely related field and 32 semester hours of addiction studies. Coursework must be distributed in the manner prescribed by the Board. The student will need two semester hours of professional ethics. He or she will need at least three credit hours in each of the following:

  • Treatment theory and technique
  • Dynamics of addiction
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Group counseling
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Family systems
  • Lifespan development
  • Multicultural diversity or cultural competency as it relates to counseling

The Board has specified the major topics to be covered in some content areas. Family systems, for example, must cover family types, family functioning, and addiction in families. Co-occurring disorders coursework is to cover mental health and mental illness in children, adolescents, and adults, as well as DSM-based diagnosis.

Academic requirements must be met through regionally accredited colleges and universities.

Training Standards

Individuals who begin their training in North Dakota can either complete training through a Board-approved training program or complete an individualized training plan under the supervision of a Board-approved training program. The total requirement is 1,400 hours.

North Dakota training programs follow standards described in state code. In most cases, a trainee will work at at least two separate treatment facilities. Rotations will be at least three months in duration. The trainee can expect monthly evaluations. He or she will have supervisory hours in five different clinical areas described by the Board. Ultimately the training program will administer an oral examination.

A list of training programs is available on the Board website ( Training forms can be accessed from the same page.

In general, a person must have met educational requirements before being registered as a trainee. However, the Board can register individuals who are short two of the mandated addiction studies courses.

A mental health professional who is licensed in a discipline other than addiction counseling can credit a year spent in the provision of direct clinical counseling as 150 hours of clinical training, up to a maximum of 900 hours. At least 500 hours must incorporate Board-mandated topics such as American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) criteria.

A reciprocity applicant will need to demonstrate at least 1,400 hours of supervised experience.

The Examination Process

North Dakota uses the certification examination developed by the Association of Addiction Counselors (NAADAC). Examination information is available from NAADAC (

Examinations are administered in Minot and Fargo. Minot State University makes examinations available several times a week. Sites may be added or changed. There is a separate application for examination (

The Application Process

License application forms can be downloaded from the NDBACE website (

The applicant is to provide three professional references. One is to come from a clinical supervisor, past or present. References are to be on a Board-supplied form.

The official transcript is to be sent directly to the Board from the issuing institution. Applicants who have practiced in other states will need to submit credential verification.

License fees vary, depending on the stage of the current renewal cycle.

Applicants must sign the NCBACE code of ethics. They may mail their application forms or submit them electronically. The Board is physically located outside of North Dakota. Mail is addressed to the following address:

North Dakota State Board of Addiction Counseling Examiners
505 Kansas City Street
Rapid City, SD 57701

Additional Requirements for Private Practice

A practitioner must accrue additional experience in order to be registered for private practice. Experience requirements depend on degree. With a master’s degree in a related field, a person can achieve private practice eligibility after as few as 4,000 post-degree practice hours as a Licensed Addiction Counselor. Without a qualifying master’s degree, the requirement is 10,000 hours. Private practice applications are found in the forms section of the Board website.

Additional Requirements for Clinical Supervisor Status

In order to be eligible for clinical supervisor status, a Licensed Addiction Counselor must accrue 6,000 hours of experience. Additionally, the prospective clinical supervisor must complete 20 hours of continuing education in clinical supervision and must present two letters of recommendation from Board-registered clinical supervisors.

Additional Information

Licensing information is available from the North Dakota Board of Addiction Counseling Examiners. NDBACE can be reached by telephone at (701) 255-1439 or by email at 'board at'.

The North Dakota Addiction Counselors Association is an additional resource (; it is the state NAADAC affiliate.

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