How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Ohio

Search Programs

What is Addiction Counseling?


If you’ve decided to become an addiction counselor in Ohio, you may be confused at the different terminology and coursework offered by each college or university you might apply to. Although addiction counselors, also known as substance abuse counselors, may enter the field as a Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant (CDCA) with a high school diploma, an actual licensed counselor must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree is the standard in many states.

An addiction counselor, also referred to as a substance abuse counselor, provides treatment and support to clients who are dealing with an addiction disorder. Although addiction is commonly used to refer to alcohol or substance abuse, an addiction counselor can also specialize in less common addictions such as shopping, gambling, or video games. In addition to one-on-one counseling with the client, an addiction counselor also works with social workers, doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other healthcare providers to develop a personalized treatment plan for each client.

Although the majority of addiction counselors work in a clinic or hospital setting, they may also be employed at schools, community service centers, prisons, and in-patient facilities specifically geared toward addiction treatment. Many addiction counselors choose to focus on a specific addiction, such as alcohol, and many choose to work with a specific demographic such as children, teens, adults, or the incarcerated.


Search Programs

Online Addiction Counseling Education in Ohio


Because your degree will require you to take a wide range of mental health classes, in addition to courses specific to addiction, it’s a good strategy to become familiar with the different licensing requirements for each stage of your career path. At the same time, be aware of current and future Ohio employment industries before committing to a specific college or degree program. Ohio counseling licensure will require specific hour requirements for coursework as well as work experience in order to earn and to maintain every level of credential.

The economy of Ohio has been doing well in recent years. The northwestern area of Ohio is dominated by the auto industry and related manufacturing, which is Ohio’s top industry and projected to grow 19% in the next six years. The employment of substance abuse and other mental health counselors is projected to grow 23% nation-wide between 2020 and 2030. No matter which degree you plan to earn, you should check to see if the school you’re considering has internship opportunities with the major mental health insurance providers in the area.

The Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State University Medical Center are two of the top five healthcare employers throughout Ohio, so you might want to look for addiction counseling degree programs that tie in with these medical systems. Because your addiction counselor licensure will require the equivalent of a year of employment in the field, it is vital to find placement in a job or internship which will fill this requirement. Working with either the Cleveland Clinic or Ohio State University medical center will qualify as the employment required and job placement can be facilitated through your school of choice.

Because addiction counselor licensure requires a master’s degree you should always strive to plan for the future. Make sure the courses you take in your associates or bachelor’s degree program will transfer to your future master’s degree. In addition, keep your licensure in focus so your degree and your credential requirements are both on track.

Certifications and licenses for substance abuse counselors in the state of Ohio are issued by the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board (OCDP), so your degree level will be in direct correlation to your certification or licensure. Although the initial assistant certification requires no degree, the other three licensed chemical dependency counselor levels have specific degree and internship hour requirements. This means that a good part of your educational experience will be in clinical or field days so, by the end of your degree program, you will have the proper course credits as well as the required work experience to sit for the next licensure exam level.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

During your first two years of education, while you work on your associates degree, your first goal should be to complete the required 40 hours of class work to qualify for the Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant Preliminary (CDCA PRE) certification. The CDCA PRE is only valid for 13 months and is non-renewable; by the beginning of your second year, you should have completed the additional 30 hours of specific educational requirements to apply for the CDCA credential. This will allow you to accrue the needed hours of work for your first license.

These programs usually require that students complete around 60 credit hours of courses. These courses will include general education classes and those focused on your core curriculum: human behavior, general psychology, the physiology of addiction, etc. Some schools provide placement programs so that you can have the best shot at finding either an internship or a job after you’ve graduated.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

Once you earn your bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling, you’ll meet the minimum degree requirement to sit for the Licensed Dependency Counselor III (LCDC III) exam. In addition to your degree, you’ll need to meet the same 180 hours of coursework and 2,000 hours work requirement as the LCDC II.

A bachelor’s degree in counseling should take around four years and will require that you complete around 120 credit hours. The courses required will include general education and core curriculum, just like an associate degree would. However, if you have already completed an associate degree from an accredited institution, you may be able to transfer your already earned credits and start your bachelor’s as a junior rather than starting from the beginning. Courses at this level will provide more in-depth knowledge of human behavior and the psychological and physiological response to drugs and alcohol that make up addiction.

By earning both your degree and the LCDC III credential, you can showcase your knowledge and experience in addiction counseling, which will make it much easier for you to be accepted in the master’s degree program of your choice. This level of certification and degree are considered standard for entry level positions as a certified addictions counselor.

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

Upon earning your master’s degree in counseling or psychology, you may qualify to sit for the Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor (LICDC) exam. The highest certification available, the LICDC allows you to open your own addiction counseling practice.

A master’s degree offers more in-depth learning that either an associate degree or a bachelor’s. If you choose to attend a program at this level, you won’t take any general education courses. Instead, every class will focus on the specialty you choose, such as addiction counseling or family and marriage counseling. A master’s usually requires around 60 credit hours and two years to complete if you are able to attend full-time. Many of these programs offer online learning options because they are meant for busy working professionals.

Aside from being able to open your own addiction counseling business, a master’s degree and LICDC certification will establish your expertise and experience in your chosen specialty area of addiction counseling and define you as a leader in your career field.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

A PhD or doctorate degree in addiction and recovery will allow you to focus your research and work on one specific area of study within the broad spectrum of addiction. Usually, a full-time student will need three to four or more years to complete a PhD, and the programs often attract non-clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who may wish to focus their expertise on research or teaching. Students will delve into the pharmacology of addiction as well as family studies, cultural sensitivity, and more. The majority of a program in addiction will focus on the dynamics of addiction, substance abuse, and dependence and learning to rely on assessment and treatment planning to form overall treatment strategies as well as to teach interns and assistants.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Ohio


Your first step in becoming an addiction counselor in Ohio is to meet the following requirements for the Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant Preliminary (CDCA PRE) certification:

40 hours of specific coursework as follows:

  • Theories of Addiction (5 hours)
  • Counseling Procedures & Strategies with Addicted Populations (14 hours)
  • Group Process & Techniques Working with Addicted Populations (5 hours)
  • Assessment & Diagnosis of Addiction (3 hours)
  • Treatment Planning (7 hours)
  • Ethics (6 hours)

Make sure the classes you take meet the standards set forth by the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board, which is the state of Ohio licensing board for substance abuse counselors.

The CDCA PRE is vital because it will allow you to accrue the experience hours required for your higher certifications. Your CDCA PRE is only good for 13 months; once you’ve held it for 10 months and have taken an additional 30 hours of classes, you may apply for the Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant (CDCA) certificate, which is renewable every two years if needed.

Because this career field requires a combination of specific education plus specific experience, your college advisor will help you navigate the course requirements and most likely will also coordinate your work or internship hours. However, it is your responsibility to verify the classes you take meet the requirements for certification.

Once you are working as a CDCA, you will be doing actual counselling work under the mentorship of a licensed counselor. You will need 2,000 hours (equivalent of a year full-time) of work experience as well as your associate degree and specific class hours and topics to qualify to sit for your next level of addiction counseling licensure, the Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor II (LCDC II).

The LCDC III license has the same work and class criteria as the LCDC II, but the degree requirement is a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science. The top addiction counseling licensure in Ohio is the Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor (LICDC), which gives the holder the right to open their own counseling business. The LICDC is granted to those holding a master’s degree in behavioral science who have met the educational requirements as set forth by the board.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


As you plan your course of higher education to become an addiction counselor, it’s important to determine whether this type of counseling is the right fit for your long-term career goals. Although there may be different certification requirements, there are many other rewarding careers in the realm of social work and counseling, and your core classes, experience, and degrees in behavioral science will mean you are qualified for many other positions within your chosen field. Here’s a look at other professions you may opt for in Ohio with your degree in addiction counseling.

  • Clinical Social Worker:
    Clinical social workers are employed by schools, hospitals, private practices, community centers, and a wide range of other settings. This is a specialized area of social work, which focuses on diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and the prevention of behavior issues. Clinical social work is a specialized area of expertise and is licensed at the state level in Ohio.
  • Career Counselor:
    A career counselor helps their client identify possible career fields by administering aptitude tests, pinpointing interests and hobbies, and utilizing inherent talents and skills to find an area of employment they will enjoy and thrive in. They may also help clients with basic job finding skills such as building a resume, searching for job opportunities, and practicing for interviews.
  • Residential Counselor:
    A residential counselor typically works in a group facility such as a shelter, assisted living facility, rehabilitation center, youth summer camp, or university resident hall. Although duties vary depending on the type of residence, they are generally tasked with guiding, supporting, and supervising a group of clients within the environment. Residential counselors in general keep a logbook to track specific interactions and progress for each client and typically report weekly to the program director.
  • Grief Counselor:
    Grief counselor known as a bereavement counselor, a grief counselor helps clients deal with the loss of a loved one. Grief may cause relationship problems, feelings of guilt or depression, and may interfere with daily activities. Although grief is described as having specific stages, each stage can last months or years if the survivor is overwhelmed and unable to navigate one or more stage. A grief counselor may work with individuals or in a group setting to help each client move on through their loss.
  • Behavioral Therapist:
    A behavioral therapist is a licensed clinical therapist who has specific training in the use of behavior modification for specific issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Basically, the therapist looks for the underlying causes of the condition and develops a treatment plan which introduces new and healthier behaviors.
  • Sports Psychologist:
    A sports psychologist helps athletes with issues such as anxiety, focus, communication, and motivation, both on and off the playing field. A sports psychologist can enhance a player’s performance as they learn to cope with the pressures of competitive sports. Although a sports psychologist generally needs the same degree as an addiction counselor, they are also required to take coursework in kinesiology, sports medicine, physiology, and similar subjects, so additional education may be required to meet Ohio state standards for licensure.

Search Programs