How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Texas

Due to the hard work of substance abuse professionals, Texas boasts below-average drug abuse rates. Across the country, opioid overdoses account for nearly 15 deaths per 100,000 people. In the Lone Star State, the rate is five deaths per 100,000. However, even one preventable fatality is too many, so the state continues to rely on substance abuse counselors to help those in need. Students who want to bring the rate of overdose deaths to zero should learn how to become substance abuse counselors in Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) oversees Texas counseling licensure. Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) can assist people struggling with addiction. However, candidates who only want to treat people with addictions can apply for the licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC) credential instead. The following page details how to become a Texas chemical dependency counselor, including the education requirements, internship process, and career resources.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Texas

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Texas here

Education and Experience Requirements

LCDC candidates first meet the academic requirements with their counseling intern (CI) credentials. With the CI licenses, they can complete their supervised experience hours and apply for the LCDC license. The Texas Counselor Board outlines the following education requirements for CI and LCDC candidates.

Academic Requirements

CI applicants must hold high school diplomas or GEDs. They do not need to possess their college degrees yet, but they should complete at least 270 hours of related college coursework. Roughly 135 hours should be on substance abuse and the remaining half can focus on any kind of counseling. As part of their coursework, CI candidates must also complete 300-hour practicums in substance abuse treatment. CI licenses last for five years. During that time, students should earn their college degree. To apply for the LCDC license, candidates must hold an associate degree or higher in substance abuse treatment from a regionally accredited institution.


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

Students should complete substance abuse programs at accredited colleges and universities. The Texas Counselor Board requires learners to take courses in each of the following disciplines: understanding addiction, treatment knowledge, application to practice, and professional readiness. These classes must add up to 135 clock hours. The other half of the required hours can be in any counseling area, including human development and abnormal psychology. The Texas Chemical Dependency Board only accepts hours that come from courses candidates pass. Upon request from the board, some applicants must provide additional information about their classes.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

As part of their degrees, candidates must complete internships that include 300 hours of supervised work with substance abuse clients. The internship must include at least 20 hours on each of the following functions of substance abuse counselors: screening, intake, orientation, assessment, treatment planning, counseling, case management, crisis intervention, client education, referral, reports and record keeping, and consultation.

The Exam and Application Process for Texas Substance Abuse Counselors

The first step toward substance abuse counselor licensure in Texas is the CI credential. CI applicants should hold high school diplomas or GEDs, prove that they completed the required 270 college hours, and demonstrate 300 internship hours in their higher education programs.

During the 5-8 years in which CIs hold their licenses, they should gain 4,000 hours of supervised experience in treating patients with substance abuse disorders

The Texas Chemical Dependency Board also conducts background checks on CI candidates. Applicants should attach wallet-sized images of themselves along with a $65 application fee. Finally, candidates sign agreements to abide by the state's ethical standards. Candidates who pass these steps earn their CI licenses, which last five years. In some cases, the Board grants CIs an additional three years if they complete special extension applications.

During the 5-8 years in which CIs hold their licenses, they should gain 4,000 hours of supervised experience in treating patients with substance abuse disorders. During this time, they may also complete a substance abuse degree at the associate level or higher. When CIs meet these requirements, they can take the Texas Certification Board of Addiction Professionals (TCBAP) exam. When they receive the official passing results, LCDC candidates can submit their final applications alongside letters of recommendation from two currently practicing LCDCs.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

The Lone Star State does not maintain reciprocity agreements with any other state. Instead, substance abuse professionals from other states must meet the same standards as new licensees. If candidates already possess the following qualifications, they can apply directly for the LCDC license rather than apply for the CI credentials:

  • College degree in substance abuse from a regionally accredited institution
  • 4,000 hours of supervised substance abuse counseling experience
  • Two letters of recommendation from LCDC professionals

Candidates must pass the TCBAP exam before submitting their applications. Out-of-state candidates who do not meet these requirements can apply for the CI license first.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

CIs do not need to renew their licenses within the five-year period. However, LCDC licenses expire every two years. During each renewal cycle, professionals must earn continuing education credits based on their education level. Professionals with a master's degree or higher should earn 24 credits each cycle, while other LCDCs should complete 40 credits per period. All professionals must complete at least three credits in ethics courses and six credits from classes in HIV, hepatitis C, or sexually transmitted diseases. Renewal candidates must also submit an application and licensing fees that total $131.

CIs do not need to renew their licenses within the five-year period. However, LCDC licenses expire every two years

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Texas

Students do not have to enter their substance abuse counseling programs alone. The following resources can help learners find accredited programs, connect with professionals across the state, learn about addiction counseling, find jobs that meet their needs, and complete continuing education requirements.

  • Academy for Addiction Professionals The Academy provides certifications, continuing education classes, and compliance training to advance substance abuse professionals' careers. Professionals can earn several types of certifications depending on their education level.
  • Addiction Jobs Interns and professional candidates use this job board to find addiction-related positions across the country. The site also includes resources such as industry-specific blogs and interview tips.
  • Addiction Professional This online magazine for substance abuse professionals includes timely articles on counseling, medical intervention, the business of helping people with addiction, upcoming events, and policy updates.
  • Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network This international professional network aims to spread evidence-based addiction treatment techniques and technology. Professionals and students access technology training, resources for implementing these tools in practice, and industry-related news.
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers The NAATP is a professional organization for substance abuse counselors across the country. Members gain access to the leadership conference, public policy advocacy, industry newsletters, and an exclusive job board.
  • Texas Certification Board of Addiction Professionals LCDC candidates must pass the TCBAP exam to earn their licenses. This website allows applicants to register for the test, access study materials, and learn about optional certifications that can boost their careers.
  • Texas Addiction Professionals Peer Assistance Network When substance abuse counselors develop addiction or behavioral disorders, they turn to TAPNET. The DSHS approves this peer-helping organization, and sober professionals can volunteer to assist their peers.
  • Texas Association of Addiction Professionals This professional organization is a local chapter of the National Association for Addiction Professionals. Members gain free continuing education, subscriptions to industry publications, an exclusive job board, and discounts on professional resources.
  • Texas Department of State Health Services On this department's website, candidates find more details on how to become a substance abuse counselor in Texas. CI and LCDC candidates also apply online through this site.
  • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board The THECB details the accredited colleges and universities in the Lone Star State, including all public and private schools. Students can explore higher education opportunities and financing options.

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