How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Iowa

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Addiction can be found in all facets of life. It does not recognize age, race, gender, or socioeconomic background. Anyone can find themselves in the grasp of an addiction and seeking help to break free from it. Addiction counselors assist these people when they're ready to transition from the life of an addict back toward a healthier life for themselves and their loved ones. There is no one particular industry where there's more addiction than another, so addiction counselors can find themselves working with a variety of people. The top three industries in Iowa our real estate, manufacturing, and business and finance. All three of these industries are high pressure and many who work in these industries could find themselves coping in less than healthy ways. Addiction counselors can help these people find ways to still enjoy their careers without depending on harmful substances to get through the day.

An addiction counselor is an individual that works with people who are struggling to create a life free of the abuse of alcohol, drugs, or other substances. They can work in an individual setting or with groups. Counselors can be part of a larger organization, or they could be in private practice. Addiction counselors are not relegated to just helping those with addiction issues; they can be trained to help in many different areas.


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Addiction Counseling Education in Iowa

In the state of Iowa, there are 2,300 people employed as addiction counselors. On average, they make $53,000 a year. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for counselors is expected to increase between now and the year 2030. If you are someone who is interested and helping people create a healthier life by beating an addiction, then this is a career you might want to consider. Below, you will find information regarding education requirements, licensing requirements, and possible jobs in the addiction counseling arena.


Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

Usually, a two-year degree in addiction counseling is technically not an associate degree. It is, instead, an add-on certificate for someone with a bachelor’s or higher in another area of counseling that also once to work as an addiction counselor. However, in the state of Iowa, the program can partially qualify a person to become an addiction counselor.

In the associate degree program, students will study courses such as the following:

  • Alcohol & Drug Counseling II
  • Assessment of Alcohol & Drug Addiction
  • Introduction to Alcohol and Drug Counseling
  • Professional, Legal & Ethical Responsibilities for Alcohol & Drug Counselors
  • Special Topics for Alcohol & Drug Counseling
  • Treatment Planning & Relapse Prevention for Alcohol & Drug Addiction

Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

Those who pursue a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling will study sociology, psychology, and other liberal arts classes in their general education courses. Students may also study chemistry and biology because this adds vital education information about how drug addiction could change the chemical composition of a person's brain.

Other classes in an addiction counseling program could include:

  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Human Development
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Students may also have to complete a critical internship in their desired area of study. The internship can take place in any type of facility, provided they are approved to provide training for interns. This means that a licensed therapist must be involved in the training process.

Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS or MC)

The most common master’s degrees for people who want to work as addiction counselors are those in social work and psychology. Addiction counseling is a component of both of these programs, but the two-year certificate mentioned above can also be included in the curriculum.

Along with the courses in psychology and social work, students may study the following:

  • Building Your Ideal Private Practice
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Orientation to Addiction
  • Psychopathology and Personality Disorders
  • Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling

Students who are not currently working in a counseling role will need to complete an internship or other relevant experience in order to complete the program. This can be completed through an organization or individual private practice or at a local healthcare facility. These programs typically take three to five years to complete and a capstone or a comprehensive examination might also be required.

PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Addiction counseling is usually part of a clinical PhD program meant for counseling professionals. Students may study high-level classes that cover subjects such as abnormal psychology, human development, clinical psychology, and behavioral science. A person with a doctorate and a license can offer internships to other students; they also qualify to teach at the university level. To complete the program, a dissertation is required, as is its successful defense. There will also likely be a clinical internship that must be completed under the supervision of a licensed supervisor and must include face to face counseling with patients.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Iowa


There are four levels of counselors recognized in the state of Iowa:

  • Temporary Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (tCADC)
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC)
  • International Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IADC)
  • International Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (IAADC)

To qualify for the tCADC or CADC, applicants must meet either the education track or the experience track requirements.

Education track requirements are as follows:

  • A high school diploma or general education diploma
  • 24 semester hours of college level credit in substance abuse or related fields
  • A minimum grade of a C must be earned in all courses
  • A minimum of 150 clock hours or relevant education is required - Hours must be earned in the following:
    • 45 clock hours in counseling theories and techniques
    • 45 clock hours in alcohol and drug specific learning
    • 6 clock hours in special populations
    • 6 clock hours in counseling ethics
    • 3 clock hours and racial/ethnic education
  • Six months full time (or 1000 clock hours) of supervised experience in substance abuse counseling within the past three years

The experience track has the following requirements:

  • A high school diploma or general education diploma
  • 24 semester hours of college level credit in substance abuse or related fields
  • A minimum grade of a C must be earned in all courses
  • A minimum of 150 clock hours a relevant education is required - Hours must be earned in the following:
    • 45 clock hours in counseling theories and techniques
    • 45 clock hours in alcohol and drug specific learning
    • 6 clock hours in special populations
    • 6 clock hours in counseling ethics
    • 3 clock hours and racial/ethnic education
    • Six months full time (or 1000 clock hours) a supervised experience in substance abuse counseling within the past three years
  • 1 1/2 years full time or 3000 clock hours of supervised experience performing the four domains of the alcohol and drug counselor within the past three years

To qualify as an international alcohol and drug counselor (IADC) the following is required:

  • A high school diploma or general education diploma
  • Completion of 300 clock hours in the alcohol and drug knowledge and skill competencies
  • Hours must be earned as:
    • 90 clock hours in counseling theories and techniques
    • 90 clock hours in alcohol and drug specific
    • 6 clock hours in counseling ethics
    • Three clock hours and racial/ethnic education
  • Experience within the past six years of the four domains of the alcohol and drug counselor is required as follows:
    • Master degree level must document 2000 hours experience
    • Bachelor degree level must document 4000 hours experience
    • Associate degree level must document 5000 hours experience
    • Those without a college degree in a related field must document 6000 hours of experience
    • 300 hours of on-the-job supervision in the four domains of counseling are required for someone with a high school diploma - 250 required for someone with an associate’ - 200 hours is required for someone with a bachelor’s - 100 hours is required for applicants with a master’s
  • A passing score on the supervisor’s counselor evaluation
  • A passing score on the IC&RC ADC exam

To qualify as an international advanced alcohol and drug counselor (IADC) applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • A master’s degree in behavioral science plus completion of 180 clock hours of alcohol and drug specific education. An additional 6 clock hours must be obtained in counselor ethics as well as three clock hours specific to racial/ethnic
  • 2000 clock hours of supervised experience in all four domains
  • 300 hours of on the job supervision
  • A passing score on the supervisor’s counselor evaluation
  • A passing score on the IC&RC AADC exam

Counseling Careers


Counselors are helpful for people in plenty of situations. Addiction counseling is one area, however there are many other areas where counselors are needed. Below are some examples of the type of counseling work a person can find. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does include many of the major counselor careers available.

  • School Counselor
    School counselors work in the education setting and help students with their varying needs. Some students just need general counseling regarding how to deal with classmates and homework, while other students need additional emotional support. School counselors evaluate the students and make recommendations where necessary.
  • Clinical Social Worker
    Clinical social workers are trained professionals who can evaluate a situation and determine where there are needs that are not being met. They take this information and match the needs to the proper organization that can assist. Clinical social workers work with people will of all ages, but many will specialize in adults, children, veterans, the elderly etc.
  • Grief Counselor
    Grief counselors help people process and deal with their grief. Counseling sessions can be in a group or on an individual basis. The counselor helps people process their grief in healthy ways so that the grief does not lead two other issues, such as substance abuse.
  • Adult and Geriatric Counselor
    An adult and geriatric counselor works with adults and the elderly to assess their needs and help them find solutions to any financial, emotional, or behavioral issues. This counseling could be done on an individual basis or in a group.
  • Career Counselor
    Career counselors use a series of tests, tools, and evaluation forms to determine the best career for a person. This person could be choosing a major in college or could be working in one career but considering changing to another. This counselor can help people find the correct path.
  • Child Counselor
    Child counselors work with children who are experiencing emotional or behavioral issues. These counselors are specially trained in using tools and techniques specifically designed for children. Once a need has been identified, the counselor creates methods and processes to help the child navigate their life more effectively. Counselors work mainly with children, however, sessions with the parents and the entire family can also be beneficial.
  • College Counselor
    Not everyone goes through college knowing exactly what they want to do. Some students struggle with finding the right major for them. College counselors can help these students narrow down their focus and find the areas of the most interest to them. College counselors also have information regarding internships and other programs a student may need to either graduate or make themselves more attractive in the workforce. Counselors can also assist college students with choosing the right advanced degree path to take.

Other career paths in the counselor industry include:

  • Behavioral Therapist
  • Genetic Counselor
  • Group Counselor or Therapist
  • Residential Counselor
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Health Psychologist
  • Military Counselor
  • Organizational Counselor

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