Substance abuse counselors have the necessary training and experience required to provide alcohol and drug abuse and/or addiction patients with services that are both informed and ethical. As a licensed professional, these individuals are prepared to regularly assess, diagnose, and evaluate the condition of their patients, as well as provide expert counseling services in individual and group settings. Substance abuse counselors are also trained in intervention and referral techniques.

Where Substance Abuse Counselors Work

While there are a number of potential career opportunities for substance abuse counselors, they often work in one of the following settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Detox Centers
  • Juvenile Detention Facilities
  • Halfway Houses
  • Probation and Parole Agencies

Types of Licensure in New Mexico

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The New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board establishes and maintains professional, ethical, and continued education standards for counselors and therapists. It’s the only authority capable of granting this type of certification and practicing in New Mexico without an active license is illegal. The Board is primarily responsible for ensuring that all substance abuse counselors in the state possess the necessary knowledge and skills to practice efficiently and ethically. It also investigates patient complaints and holds licensees responsible if they’re found to be acing in an unprofessional or unethical manner. While the Board offers a number of licensing options, including Mental Health Counselor, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Professional Art Therapist, there are two certifications available for those interested in entering the substance abuse and/or addiction field.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC)

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC) is the first and most extensive substance abuse and/or addiction counseling credential offered in New Mexico. LADACs are certified to provide one-on-one and group counseling services including, but not limited to, screening, intake, orientation, assessment, evaluation, referral, treatment planning, counseling, crisis intervention, patient education, consulting, record keeping, and case management. Those interested in becoming an LADAC must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have, at minimum, an associate’s degree in counseling, a counseling related field, or a substance abuse related field
  • Read and agree to the standards established in the Code of Ethics
  • Complete 276 hours of education and training
  • Go through a period of supervised experience (requirements vary depending on the level of education obtained)
  • Take and pass the National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I examination
  • Provide sealed, official transcripts from any and all applicable educational institutions

LADAC applications can be found online at www.rld.state.nm.us. Completed forms must be signed, dated, and notarized. Additionally, a $75 non-refundable application fee is required. The Board no longer accepts credit card payments of any kind; a check or money order should be made payable to the “Counseling and Therapy Practice Board.” The application, fee, official transcripts, verification of education and training, and verification of postgraduate supervised hours must then be sent to the following address:

New Mexico Counseling & Therapy Practice Board
PO Box 25101
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

Substance Abuse Associate (LSAA)

The New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board also offers a restricted licensure option, referred to as Substance Abuse Associate (LSAA). LSAAs are certified to provide one-on-one counseling and group process services to patients, but must have a direct supervisor who oversees their practice and ensures quality services are being provided. While the supervisor isn’t required to observe at all times, clinical supervision through case reviews, audiotape reviews, videotape reviews, and direct observation is expected. Those interested in becoming an LSAA must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have, at minimum, an associate’s degree in counseling, a counseling related field, or a substance abuse related field
  • Provide sealed, official transcripts from any and all educational institutions
  • Read and agree to the standards established in the Code of Ethics
  • Complete 90 clock hours of education and training in alcohol and drug abuse education
  • Arrange for appropriate supervision and provide an experience plan

LSAA applications can be found online at www.rld.state.nm.us. Completed forms must be signed, dated, and notarized. Additionally, a $75 non-refundable application fee is required. The application, official transcripts, and a check or money order made payable to the “Counseling and Therapy Practice Board” must then be sent to the following address:

New Mexico Counseling & Therapy Practice Board
PO Box 25101
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

Education and Training Requirements

Both the LADAC and LSAA candidates are required to meet certain education and training requirements. These requirements vary drastically depending on the credential sought.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC)

All LADAC candidates must also complete 276 clock hours of drug, alcohol, counseling, and ethics training in the following quantities:

  • 90 clock hours of alcohol abuse education
  • 90 clock hours of drug abuse education
  • 90 clock hours of counseling education
  • Six clock hours of ethics education

This training can consist of any combination of academic courses, seminars, and workshops pertaining to each given subject. Photocopies of all certificates and official transcripts are required, as well as course descriptions if “substance abuse” is not mentioned specifically in the course titles.

Substance Abuse Associate (LSAA)

Those interested in becoming an LSAA are responsible for completing a total of 90 clock hours of education and training that is specific to alcohol and drug abuse counseling. Candidates must be able to provide official transcripts from an accredited college or university to the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board. Transcripts must be official and remain sealed when submitted with the other LSAA application materials.

Clinical Supervision Requirements

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To apply to become a substance abuse counselor in New Mexico, candidates for both the LADAC and LSAA credentials must complete some amount of supervised experience. These requirements vary drastically depending on the credential sought.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC)

LADAC candidates are responsible for obtaining the appropriate amount of supervised experience prior to applying for certification. These requirements vary depending on the level of education obtained:

Associate’s Degree

  • Three years and 3,000 supervised hours of client contact in alcohol and drug abuse counseling
  • 200 hours of face-to-face supervision

Bachelor’s Degree

  • Two years and 2,000 supervised hours of client contact in alcohol and drug abuse counseling
  • 100 hours of face-to-face supervision

Master’s Degree or Doctorate

  • One year and 1,000 supervised hours of client contact in alcohol and drug abuse counseling
  • 50 hours of face-to-face supervision

Supervision must be provided by a licensed professional with direct experience in alcohol and drug abuse counseling. It’s ultimately the candidate’s responsibility to ensure that the hours of supervision meet the Board’s requirements. Proof of this supervised experience must be provided by the supervisor(s) and submitted in a sealed envelope with the LADAC application.

Substance Abuse Associate (LSAA)

LSAAs are required to practice, even after they’re certified, with professional supervision. This supervision must be provided by a licensed professional with direct experience in alcohol and drug abuse counseling. It’s the responsibility of the candidate to verify that supervision arrangements meet the Board’s requirements. Proof of an experience plan is required. Candidates must print and give the experience plan form to their supervisors, who will need to return the form to the following address:

New Mexico Counseling & Therapy Practice Board
PO Box 25101
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

Examination Requirements

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While LSAA candidates are not required to take any examination for certification in New Mexico, LADAC candidates must successfully pass the National Certification Examination for Addiction Counselors (NCAC level I) or the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC).

Once the educational and supervision requirements have been met and proof of each submitted to the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board along with the LADAC application, candidates will need to wait for board approval to take the examination. The only exception to this ruling is if the NCAC level I or IC&RC exam has already been taken and passed previously. In this case, candidates should indicate this on their application and have verification of a passing score sent directly from the testing facility to the Board.

If the exam is being taken for the first time, the application and all of the required materials must be approved by the Board before the next available exam date. Once approved as a qualified applicant, information regarding the exam registration requirements will be provided. Additionally, candidates will receive specifics regarding the exam fee, payment options, and locations.

While individuals who arrive late to the examination will be permitted to enter, under no circumstance will they be allowed additional time. If, however, special accommodations through the American Disability Act are needed, requests can be made in writing. These should include details about the testing accommodations needed and must be accompanied by a medical statement as confirmation. Special accommodation requests will be considered by the Board on a case-by-case basis.

Candidates can expect to receive their test results within 60 days. These will be provided in writing by the Board. If a passing score isn’t attained, the candidate’s temporary license must be surrendered immediately.

Renewal and Continuing Education

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Substance abuse and/or addiction specialists in New Mexico must renew their license every year. As part of this process, professionals are required to complete 40 hours of continuing education undertaken between October 1 and September 30 of each year. For all licensure types, this must include at least six hours of ethics education. Those in supervisory roles must also complete at least three hours of training pertaining to supervision.

There are a variety of sources professionals can use to obtain their required continuing education classes, including coursework approved or sponsored by:

  • Association International Certification Reciprocity Consortium
  • National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counsel
  • National Board of Certified Counselors
  • New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board
  • Other regulatory boards of related fields
  • International, national, regional, or state mental health professional associations

Additionally, writing professional publications and teaching educational courses can count for up to 20 hours of the continuing education requirement. Internet and home studies continuing education correspondence cannot exceed 12 hours.

Licensees are responsible for providing proof of participation in and completion of all continuing education hours. Properly maintaining documentation is important, as the Board can request additional proof of participation if necessary.

Practicing counselors should expect renewal notices to arrive in mid-July. If the license is not properly renewed by October 31, then it’s considered expired. At that time, all patient meetings must be discontinued, as it’s illegal to provide counseling services in the state of New Mexico with an expired license.

Associations in New Mexico

The New Mexico Counseling Association (NMCA) is a state branch of the American Counseling Association (ACA). It was established in 1956 and encompasses a variety of counseling fields. Their purpose is to facilitate networking, promote professional development, improve counseling skills, and advocate for improved services to better meet the needs of patients in New Mexico.