How to Become an Addiction Counselor in South Dakota

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Addiction is a problem throughout the United States and South Dakota is included in the crisis. Stress from life, work, poverty, personal loss, and a host of other issues drives people to find solace in drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy vices. When a person decides they want to live a life addiction free, they often need professional help to meet this goal. This is where addiction counseling comes into play. These people are trained to help people who are trying to overcome addiction recovery. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 3,200 people employed as counselors in the state of South Dakota, and they earn an average salary of $46,000. And the demand for counselors is expected to increase at a high rate through 2030.

Addiction counselors work with groups and individuals who are in treatment for alcohol drug and other addictions. They can provide group and individual counseling in a clinical setting. Some counselors work in recovery centers, while others might work for a social service agency or neighborhood advocacy program. They typically choose a niche and work within it, and they typically focus on one age group or particular demographic. For example, a counselor who served in the military might opt to focus on providing assistance to other military members or veterans. Addiction counselors are trained in recognizing the signs of an addict and possess the techniques to provide proper treatment for the people they counsel.


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Online Addiction Counseling Education in South Dakota


Addiction counselors will find themselves working with a variety of people, from teens whose experimenting went too far to the suburban soccer mom or the business executive. And the types of addictions also vary, from substances such as heroin and cocaine, prescription drugs, alcohol, food, nicotine, and more. For those who want to help a certain group overcome their addictions, this is a good thing because these people can find a job in the area that most suits them.

Counseling and therapy aren’t quite the taboo that they once were, so more people are seeking help when they realize they are in over their heads. Because of this, the need for qualified counselors is high. If you have the desire to help people, then a career in addiction counseling might be an option worth investigating.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

In the state of South Dakota, there are online programs that can qualify a person to become an addiction counselor, however, LAC certification requires a master’s degree. Depending on the program, there are associate degrees that can help you find out if addiction counseling is for you and help you apply your earned credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree after you graduate. Addiction counseling and Drug and Alcohol prevention programs at the associate level can provide you early access to hands-on experience that can be used to seek licensure.

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

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

An associate degree should take no more than two years to complete, though those who must attend part-time might need another semester to earn all required credits. Or, if you are interested in a more intense course, you might be able to complete an accelerated program in around 18 months. Those who wish to transfer their earned credits should be sure to attend a fully accredited institution and may want to find one that already has a transfer agreement with a four-year school.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS or BA)

Counseling students that pursue a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling will study sociology, psychology, and other liberal arts classes, along with their major courses. Students will also study chemistry in 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 at the bachelor’s level could include the following.

  • 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 a licensed therapist must be involved in the training process. All in all, earning a bachelor’s degree usually takes around four years, though you may earn an associate degree or take an accelerated program in order to speed the program along. A bachelor’s degree is usually required if you want to attend a master’s program, which is required for those who wish to hold LAC certification in South Dakota.

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS or MA)

The most common online master’s degrees for people who want to work as addiction counselors are in social work, psychology, and, of course, counseling.

Along with the courses in psychology and social work, students may also 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 counselor role are likely going to have to complete an internship. These can be completed through an organization, a private practice, or at a local healthcare facility. These programs typically take two to three years to complete and a capstone or a comprehensive examination might be required, depending on the program you choose.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Addiction counseling is often part of a clinical PhD program. Students will study classes such as abnormal psychology, human development, clinical psychology, and behavioral science at a deeper level than they ever have before, and they will learn more about research and teaching during one of these programs. A person with a doctorate and a license can offer training and supervision to other counselors in training and they are qualified to teach at the university level or engage in research. To complete these programs, a dissertation is required, as is its successful defense. You may also need to complete a clinical internship, which must be completed under the supervision of a licensed supervisor and include face to face counseling with patients.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in South Dakota


There are several career levels for those who want to become addiction counselors. The options and some of the requirements are included below.

Addiction Counselor Trainee (ACT) Requirements

A trainee must have at the minimum:

  • a high school diploma or general education diploma and
  • must currently hold a position which requires direct service with people who have been diagnosed with substance abuse or dependency issues.
  • The trainee must have an hour of supervision for every ten client contact hours, with a minimum of eight hours per month.
  • A counselor may hold trainee status for up to five years.
  • Status is renewed annually

Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) Requirements

A CAC requires:

  • 27 hours of coursework which may be pursued at the undergraduate or graduate level.

    The following courses are required:

    • Counseling families with drug or alcohol issues
    • Diverse populations
    • Elective (specific to alcohol/ drug use)
    • Ethics for substance abuse professionals
    • Group alcohol and drug counseling
    • Individual counseling foundations
    • Introduction to use and abuse of alcohol
    • Introduction to use and abuse of drugs
    • Treatment continuum
  • The student must earn at least a ‘C’ in required courses.
  • Experience requirements vary and depend on the level of the highest behavioral science degree earned.

    • 8,000 hours are required for those with no behavioral science degree
    • 6,000 hours are required for those with an associate’s degree in behavioral sciences from an accredited institution
    • 4,000 hours are required for those with a bachelor’s degree
    • 2,000 hours are required for those with a graduate degree
    • All students must have 300 hours of practical training in core functions. Detailed documentation will be required.
  • Candidates must also pass the IC&RC Written Examination. BAPP refers candidates to the IC&RC for study resources

Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) Requirements

An LAC candidate must:

  • Hold a master’s degree in a behavioral science discipline
  • The candidate needs 21 semester hours in Board-mandated areas.

    The Board requires three semester hours in each of the following:

    • Theories and techniques of addiction counseling
    • Psychopathology or psychopharmacology
    • Treatment planning
    • Case management/ assessment of co-occurring disorders
    • Multicultural competency
    • Ethical, legal, and professional standards
    • Clinical supervision
  • Candidates must earn a minimum of a ‘C’ in each course
  • The trainee needs 2,000 hours of experience.

    This experience must include:

    • 300 hours of supervised practical training
    • A minimum of ten hours in each of 12 core functions.
    • Candidates must pass a written IC&RC examination.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


Although addiction counseling is an important element for struggling people, the prevention of situations that lead to addiction issues is just as important. Below are some career opportunities a person can consider if they still want to work with potential at-risk people without working as an addiction counselor.

  • School Counselor
    When a student starts to act out at school, they are often referred to the school counselor. These professionals are trained to help students identify issues and help them work through them. Once a counselor knows where the issues lie, they might refer the student and their family to other forms of counseling, such as family counseling, or help them find other resources they may need, perhaps to deal with a learning difficulty. Many counselors are former teachers, but they also can have a background in social work or another area of behavioral health.
  • Clinical Social Worker
    Not all social workers work as counselors, but that doesn’t mean their work isn’t important when it comes to addiction recovery. Social workers are often the first ones alerted to a possible addiction situation. They are also often the ones who do the initial intake on a person to verify an addiction problem, and then do the footwork to find the right treatment program for them. But some social workers are also counselors, and they might work for an agency or other social service organization.
  • 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 they may have. The counseling could be done on an individual basis or in a group. The professionals work at community centers, residential homes, rehabilitation centers, and geriatric residences.
  • Career Counselor
    A career counselor assists those seeking the right career for them, or people who want to switch careers and need help narrowing down their options. Career counselors have tests and tools and know how to ask the right questions that will help a person figure out their options. Some career counselors work within a niche, for example, a career counselor might choose to work with newly separated service members who are looking for civilian work, or they might work with older people looking to make a career change. Career counselors can also assist with identifying addiction issues and helping to find treatment options.
  • College Counselor
    When a college student needs help choosing classes, majors, or is ready to pursue a job after graduation, a college counselor can assist with these issues. College counselors can help college students stay focused on their career goals, assist with picking the right courses to match their academic needs, and provide information on job opportunities.

Other career opportunities include:

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

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