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How to become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor

Licensed chemical dependency counselors (LCDCs) have educational, clinical and licensing requirements before they can help people recover from addiction.

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A licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC) helps people with substance use disorders better understand and cope with addiction. These professionals display great interpersonal skills and have the ability to empathize with their clients in nonjudgmental ways. The role often requires patience, understanding and trust.

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Some states allow a person to become licensed with an associate’s degree, but many require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Additionally, counselors are often required to gain experience through internships, supervised clinical hours or other avenues that involve direct client interaction.

Professionals who specialize in mental health and addiction are needed to help reduce the treatment gap that affects many underserved communities throughout the United States. LCDCs play an important role in closing this gap. The following provides an overview of what these professionals do, how they start their careers and what opportunities are available.

What Do LCDCs Do?

LCDC jobs involve a variety of duties performed in settings like addiction treatment facilities, private clinics, hospitals, government facilities and more. These duties include:

  • Providing counseling and mental health support
  • Creating treatment plans
  • Completing intake assessments
  • Assisting with client life situations
  • Providing education about addiction
  • Creating strategies for substance use prevention
  • Leading individual and group therapy sessions

LCDCs primarily treat clients through therapy, which includes building strategies for relapse prevention and addressing the underlying causes of addiction.

How to Become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor

The path to becoming an LCDC typically involves receiving a degree, gaining clinical experience and taking an exam for licensure. After these tasks are accomplished, an LCDC can begin working professionally in clinical settings.

Educational and Job Training Requirements

Education requirements vary greatly from state to state, with some requiring only an associate’s degree and others requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher. Additionally, each state has its own requirements regarding supervised clinical hours, internships and related experience. 

Using Ohio as an example, an LCDC needs at least an associate’s degree in behavioral science or nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in any field. They must also have 2,000 hours of supervised experience through internships or clinical practice. Finally, they must pass the ADC exam.

Required Certifications and Licenses

Candidates must pass a state LCDC exam for licensure. There are three LCDC levels, each with different requirements. In Ohio, these include:

  • LCDC II: Requires an associate’s degree in behavioral science or nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in any field. It also requires 2,000 hours of supervised work experience.
  • LCDC III: Requires a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science or nursing, and 2,000 hours of supervised work experience. 
  • Licensed independent chemical dependency counselor (LICDC): This license allows someone to open a private practice and work independently. It requires a master’s degree in behavioral science and 2,000 hours of supervised work experience.

What to Expect After School and Training

After becoming licensed, LCDCs can find opportunities in mental health clinics, private practices, substance abuse treatment facilities and many other treatment organizations. The following provides an overview of occupational demand, average salary and tips for finding employment.

Occupational Demand for LCDCs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, LCDCs and other mental health counselors make a median salary of around $46,240 per year. Demand is expected to grow by 22% from 2018 to 2028, indicating there will be many opportunities for LCDCs in the future.

How to Find a Job

Employers often post available positions on job boards like Indeed, Careerlink and similar websites. Additionally, LCDCs can check the career portals of local mental health clinics, hospitals, treatment facilities and government agencies to view active job listings. 

LCDCs may also attend professional conferences, seminars and health care-related gatherings to find potential opportunities and build a professional network. School professors can also be a helpful resource for internships and post-graduate employment.

Available Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor Jobs at The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village employs a dedicated team of LCDCs and similar mental health and addiction professionals throughout the country. Visit our job portal website to see an actively updated list of our latest employment opportunities.

FAQs about Chemical Dependency Counselors

LCDCs make a median salary of $46,240. 

At a minimum, a person will need a two-year associate’s degree and 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. However, some states have higher requirements for degrees and experience hours.

 LCDCs can work remotely, and many facilities are beginning to offer telehealth roles for these professionals.

Psychology School Guide. “How to Become a Chemical Dependency Counselor.” Accessed June 14, 2020.

Miller, Ashley. “Role of a LCDC Counselor.” Chron, March 7, 2019. Accessed June 14, 2020.

HumanServicesEdu. “Substance Abuse Counseling Certification in Ohio.” Accessed June 14, 2020. 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors.” April 10, 2020. Accessed June 14, 2020.

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
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