How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Minnesota

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Addiction counselors are professionals that provide substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health services. With training and experience, counselors evaluate clients for addictions, mental health, physical symptoms, and problem behaviors. Based on observation and interactions, they develop and recommend plans for treatment. Counselors carefully track client progress, keep detailed records, and may make referrals to specialists. During the course of treatment, counselors can also refer or transfer clients to other modes of treatment.

Addiction counselors must work with clients recovering from addiction, client families, and client support network members. They also coordinate and communicate with professionals in addiction treatment and other specialties. Addiction counselors work in a range of settings; they counsel with individuals, in groups, and with families. Other counseling specializations include clinical mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and child or school counseling.

Addiction counselors can draw from experience, experiments, and resources in other disciplines. They work in clinical settings, institutions, and in private practices. Counselors can specialize within the field of counseling; some only work with a specific type of disorder (drug or alcohol abuse) or a with a particular population group (child counselors).

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Addiction Counseling Education in Minnesota


The largest percentage group of Minnesota’s workforce is engaged in education and health services. The Mayo Clinic, also located in Minnesota, is a global leader in healthcare and medical research. The Unitedhealth Group is a national leader in healthcare and health services.

An online addiction counseling degree in Minnesota opens career prospects in public and private employment. Addiction counseling offers personally rewarding work that helps people suffering from drug use disorder. The state’s colleges and universities can help prepare students that seek to become addiction counselors in Minnesota. Students can study addiction and treatment or major in a related social science field, such as the behavioral sciences.

Career paths include licensing as social workers and psychotherapists, among other options. Minnesota is one of the small number of states with a single level license for substance abuse counselors. Minnesota requires formal education, supervised experience, examinations, and specific pre-examination requirements.

Employment in the field of addiction counseling may grow in the decade ending in 2030. With wider recognition of the scope and depth of drug use disorders in the US, the role of counselor has changed. The field has seen a greater emphasis on formal education at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. The shift away from drug-related experience to formal education comes as the connections between drug abuse and other disorders has become clear. The scope of councilor work has widened to involve more than just drug usage and deal with the correlation to other mental disorders.

Minnesota provides a range of inpatient, outpatient, and residential services for substance use disorder treatment, rehabilitation, and addiction and substance abuse counseling. The overall approach is to recognize substance use as a treatable disease. There are also services for adolescents, with special licensing for late teen-age groups and youth groups.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

An online associate degree is a sixty to sixty-five credit hour course of study. Students can complete the degree in two years of full-time study or longer if they must attend part-time. An associate degree will provide a well-rounded learning experience with a background of general education, English, and social sciences. Students can study in-person or online in Minnesota, but students should make sure of accreditation so that coursework can help toward further education.

The below-listed subjects are examples of typical addiction counseling coursework.

  • Addiction and Prevention Substance Abuse Awareness - Intro to Dual Diagnosis
  • Introduction to: Social Work, General Psychology, Cultural Anthropology
  • Counseling, Group Counseling, and Multicultural Aspects: Family and Addictions
  • Ethics/Confidentiality in Addiction and Prevention; Medical High-Risk Addictions

An associate degree is not a qualifying education level for full licensure in Minnesota. However, graduates may use it to obtain assistant type roles that will provide practical and supervised experience. An associate degree can count toward a bachelor’s degree and help meet the qualifications for licensure in Minnesota.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s degree is the entry-level addiction counseling degree in Minnesota for the field of alcohol and drug use counseling. This four-year course of study helps prepare graduates for licensure and a wide range of addiction counseling roles.

A bachelor’s degree can qualify as the educational requirement for licensure in Minnesota as a Licensed Drug Abuse Counselor (LADC). If the courses meet Minnesota statutory and rule requirements, the college coursework will qualify students for state examinations.

The required course of study for licensure must include 18 semester hours of specific counseling instruction and cover the 12 core functions of screening, intake, orientation, case management, assessment, treatment planning, counseling, client education, professional consultation, crisis intervention, record keeping and reports, and referral.

Licensure requires practical experience and supervised hours of counseling work. Students can select programs that offer a two-semester (880 hour) internship of practical experience. The required coursework and 880-hour internship are prerequisites for the state written exam.

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

A master’s degree in addiction counseling may go by a range of titles decided by the offering schools. For example, one school offers an MPS in Integrated Behavioral Health or a Master of Arts in Addiction Studies. A typical Master of Arts program is about sixty credit hours of coursework. Students that need to qualify for state exams and licensure can select the coursework needed to do so, though local counseling programs should already offer the correct coursework to do so or provide access to said coursework.

Some Minnesota schools also offer a post-graduate Certificate in Addiction Counseling. This 24-credit hour course meets state requirements for LADC coursework. Students with master’s degrees can use the certificate to meet educational coursework requirements needing only the supervised experience for full qualification.

Students can combine a Master of Arts in counseling with the LADC certificate and be fully qualified for licensure in the state as an addictions counselor. Employers may prefer master’s degrees when filling complex and leadership roles in healthcare, research, and treatment.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

A PhD in Addiction Counseling is often combined with a larger field as a concentration. For example, a PhD in Addiction Psychology, a Doctor of Social Work in Addictions and Social Work, and PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling with specialization in addiction therapy are just some of the options. The coursework requirements vary by institution; a typical course of study is about 72 credit hours and student can complete the requirements in four to five years of study, including their thesis and defense.

A PhD level of study opens career paths in policy, leadership, and education. PhDs are in demand as graduate faculty to teach undergraduate majors and graduate students pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees.

A PhD can also provide opportunities for in depth research into substance abuse and treatment. Advanced research holds enormous potential with the use of information technology and the pace of medical advances and discoveries. A doctoral level degree opens pathways for academic policy, public policy, and leadership roles.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Minnesota


Minnesota has a single license classification for drug abuse counselors; this is the Licensed Drug Abuse Counselor (LDAC). The LDAC has minimum education, experience, and examination requirements. Minnesota colleges and universities offer curriculum that includes the required coursework for licensing because they are aiming to prepare students for licensure. The Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy (BBHT) adopted specific coursework requirements and courses that contain the 12 essential principles of alcohol and drug counseling.

Minnesota LADC licensing has two options. Applicants can become licensed by examination or by work experience.

  • Method D - The Standard Method
    Applicants must show proof of a bachelor’s degree and completion of 18 semester hours of approved alcohol and drug coursework. Applicants must complete the 880-hour practicum. Finally, the applicant must obtain a passing score on the written comprehensive exam or on the written and oral combination exam.
  • Method I – Supervised Alternative

    Applicants must show a bachelor’s degree and complete 18 semester hours of required coursework in alcohol and drug counseling. They must complete an 880-hour practicum and get a passing score on the written exam. Then, they complete 2,000 hours of supervised professional practice as approved by the Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy. Supervision must be by an LDAC license holder in good standing with at least three years’ experience.

    The state of Minnesota accepts reciprocity credentials from applicants licensed in another jurisdiction for less than five years. The BBHT has a separate process to award licenses in reciprocity for professionals licensed in another jurisdiction for more than five years. The essential findings must show that the applicant is in good standing and in full compliance in the referring state. The rules for licensure in the referring state must be substantially similar to Minnesota laws.

    The best addiction counseling schools in Minnesota have regional and counseling program accreditation. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is an accreditation agency that focuses on master’s and doctoral programs in counseling. CACREP accreditation is a widely accepted standard for quality drug abuse counseling education. CACREP provides program accreditation that schools, employers, and government agencies rely upon as an assurance of high-quality drug counseling education.

Potential Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • School Counselors are professionals trained to work in primary and secondary school organizations with students and their families. They provide social and emotional support for students and may refer them to outside resources when necessary. School counselors work with students and families on academics, early career counseling, and college access and admissions. School counselors require strong communications skills and the ability to work in a school institutional setting.
  • Clinical Social Workers is a licensed professional trained to diagnose and treat behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders. The typical modes of treatment include individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. Clinical social workers use theories and practices derived from biology, social sciences, and behavioral sciences in much the same way that regular counselors do, but they also work to connect their clients with community resources.
  • Organizational Counselors are also called industrial counselors. These skilled professionals specialize in the behavior of employees in a workplace setting. Organizational counselors use research to develop plans and strategies to improve the work environment. They operate with tools like communications, job satisfaction, and workplace safety. Applying principles of learning and awareness of individual differences, organizational counselors study the work environment to promote organizational development.
  • Adult and Geriatric Counselors work with older adults to help manage their care. These counselors can advise on family support, needs for direct care, and provide input to healthcare service providers. They combine social work with specific knowledge about issues facing older age groups.
  • Career Counselors are resources for clients that seek advice on career direction and planning. Counselors provide resources keyed to the client’s needs and goals. They work with clients to understand their situations, help assess their strengths, and apply them to the identifying career options and pathways for reaching their goals. Career counselors need a depth of knowledge about a wide range of careers, industries, and fields. Career counselors help students and clients visualize success, overcome fears and insecurities, and develop workable strategies.
  • Child Counselors is a specialized type of counselor that works with children to understand and resolve their problems. Like people at all ages, children can develop mental disorders and behavioral issues that they cannot manage alone. Licensed to deliver specialized care, child counselors work with children at the appropriate level of understanding and communication. Counseling may aim at evaluating a child’s situation and their reaction to social environments and counselors can help children develop alternative and safe ways to manage, cope with, or respond to situations.
  • Behavioral Therapists are skilled professionals that work with clients across a range of mental disorders. Behavioral therapists focus on one or more disruptive, unhealthy, or destructive behaviors. They work to identify the cause and help the client change for the better. The idea of behavioral therapy is that all behaviors are learned and therefore can be changed.

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