Illinois Substance Abuse Certification Requirements

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Illinois

How To Become A Substance Abuse Counselor In Illinois

The state of Illinois harbors the third largest city in the U.S.: Chicago. The need for substance abuse counselors here is continuously increasing. The substance abuse counselors in Illinois are certified by the Illinois Certification Board (ICB) who is part of the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association (IAODAPCA). The available credential in Illinois is the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC).

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Degree Requirements

The CADC applicant will need at least a high school diploma or GED.

Education & Training Requirements

The CADC applicant will be required to take 225 clock hours of substance abuse counseling related classes. 100 of these clock hours will be specific to alcohol and drug addiction, 6 of these clock hours will be in professional ethics and counselor responsibility, and lastly, 119 of these clock hours will be in the counselor performance domain. Performance domain is defined as the following: Clinical Evaluation, Treatment Planning, Counseling, Case Management and Referral, Documentation, Client, Family and Community Education, and Professional and Ethical Responsibilities. Some college or university courses may count for these areas of education and training. One college semester hour is equivalent to 15 clock hours.

Work Experience Requirements

The applicant will need 4,000 hours (or about two years) of working a paid position in the alcohol and drug addiction field. 150 hours of supervised practical experience will also be needed, and may be included in the 4,000 hours.

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Degree & Work Hours Substitution

  • Depending on the degree the applicant holds, the applicant may be eligible to substitute their degree for part of the required hours. Official transcripts and other supporting documents must be turned in at the time of application.
  • If the applicant has an associate’s degree with a focus in behavioral health (criminal justice and social work are also relevant) and at least 12 semester credits that are alcohol and drug related, the applicant will be entitled to substitute the degree for 1,000 hours (6 months) of work experience.
  • Applicants that have a bachelor degree or higher that is focused in behavioral health with at least 12 semester credits that are alcohol and drug related will be entitled to substitute the degree for 2,000 hours of work experience.
  • Application

    The application checklist and application can be found here: CADC Application. Along with the application, the applicant will need to submit a $75 application fee. The check or money order will need to be made out to ICB. The application and fee must be mailed in to ICB, 401 East Sangamon Avenue, Springfield, IL 62702. Applications will not be accepted over email or fax. Within 30 days of receiving the application, the applicant will be notified of approval or disapproval. The applicant will be subjected to a background screening upon application.


  • Once the application has been approved, the applicant may register for the exam. The exam fee will be $175. In some rare cases, the applicant will be allowed to take the exam prior to approval. More information about early testing can be found in the CADC Counselor Model.
  • The ICB does have a study guide that is available to purchase. The form must be filled and submitted along with payment. That form is here: CADC Study Guide. The exam has 100 multiple choice questions and a set time limit of 2 hours. Once the applicant passes the exam and receives their certification they will need to pay the Biennial Certification Fee of $140.00
  • Recertification

    Counselors will be required to renew their certification every 2 years. Before they are able to renew their certification, the counselor must take 40 ICB approved clock hours of continuing education. The ICB suggests that 20 clock hours be taken each year.

    For those with questions regarding the certification, exam, or purchasing the study guide, please contact the ICB & IAODAPCA at or by phone at (217) 698-8110.

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    Duties of the CADC

    • Helping the patient understand and recognize their addiction disorder and how it affects them
    • Encouraging patients to enter the counseling process
    • Providing counseling services to the patient’s friends and family
    • Providing counseling services to the patient that help the patient recover successfully and develop a healthy lifestyle