Substance Abuse Counselor Requirements in South Dakota: The Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) and The Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)

South Dakota substance abuse counselors receive their licenses and certificates from the South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals (BAPP). There are two levels of credentialing. A Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) is a master's level professional. A Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) generally has less academic education.The person is not required to hold a degree but will need, at minimum, the equivalent of approximately one year of full-time coursework in addiction, taken through an approved post-secondary institution. A person may begin work as an Addiction Counselor Trainee (ACT) with education at the level of high school graduation. The person will be credentialed as an ACT only after accepting a volunteer or paid position.

Full credentialing as either a CAC or LAC requires a period of supervised work experience as well as satisfactory performance on an examination. For a CAC, the length of the required work period depends on educational attainment.

Like other IC&RC boards, the South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals has a residency/work requirement. In order to test as a South Dakota candidate one must live and/ or work in the state a minimum 51% of the time. (A person who is already licensed at the reciprocal level can request reciprocity.

Only LACs can practice independently. Authority for private, independent practice does not come automatically with licensure.

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CAC Educational Requirements

The prospective CAC will need 27 semester hours of specialized coursework, taken through a post-secondary institution. The requirement is to be met through one three semester hour course in each of the following:

  • Introduction to the use/ abuse of alcohol
  • Introduction to the use/ abuse of drugs
  • Continuum of alcohol and drug treatment services
  • Group alcohol and drug counseling
  • Foundations of individual counseling
  • Counseling families with alcohol/ drug use issues
  • Ethics for addiction professionals
  • Diverse populations
  • Alcohol/ drug studies elective

The student will need to earn the equivalent of at least a "C" in each required course. A prospective student may request a list of courses that have been pre-approved. A person who takes coursework that has not been pre-approved will need to fill out a course review worksheet.

CAC Experience Requirements

Experience requirements for non-degreed professionals are set a little higher than they are in many states. A person with no degree will need 8,000 hours of experience: the equivalent of four full-time years. With an associate degree, the requirement is reduced to 6,000 hours. It is reduced to 4,000 with a bachelor's degree; 2,000 with a master's. The Board does not award substitution credit for academic work completed after trainee status has been awarded.

Supervision must conform to standards described in state code. The trainee will be evaluated for certification purposes.

LAC Education and Training Requirements

An LAC has seven required courses, at least five of which must be taken at the graduate level. Required courses include the following:

  • Addiction counseling theories and techniques
  • Co-occurring disorders: case management and assessment
  • Clinical supervision
  • Psychopathology or psychopharmacology
  • Legal, ethical and professional standards
  • Treatment planning
  • Multicultural competency

Again, the minimum grade is 'C'.

The prospective LAC will need 300 hours of supervised practice with a minimum of ten hours in each domain. The total experience requirement is 2,000 hours.


Candidates take the IC&RC written examination. Resources are available from the IC&RC. The exam is administered via computer. A candidate cannot be approved for examination until after education and experience requirements have been met. Approval is granted by the South Dakota Board.

Upcoming examinations are listed on the Board website ( The website also includes a list of application deadlines. Currently there are just two testing windows per year. A registered candidate will carry out the scheduling process. A candidate who does not pass will re-test on the schedule set by the South Dakota Board.

Application Process

The application process is, in a sense, ongoing. In-state applicants will apply first at the ACT level. The applicant will sign an ethics code and information release at this time. A person can be recognized as an ACT for up to five years; annual renewal is required.

An applicant for CAC or LAC will provide references and evaluation as well as documentation of education, training, and evaluation.

Forms are available on the Board website ( There is a separate application for each credential. A CAC who has met additional requirements will submit an upgrade application.

License fees are $250; upgrade fees, $150. Trainee fees are pro-rated and can be as high as $150.

Private Practice for Licensed Addiction Counselors

In order to practice privately, a person must have two years of addiction counseling experience, accrued after the initial certification or license was granted; trainee-level experience does not qualify. Verification forms are available on the Board website (


CACs and LACs renew their credentials each year. They document their continuing education every two years.

Additional Information

Information can be obtained from the South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals ( The Standards Manual contains detailed information about the licensing process. BAPP can be reached by email at 'bapp at' or by telephone at 605.332.2645.

The South Dakota Association of Addiction and Prevention Professionals is an additional professional resource (

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