Substance Abuse Counseling

Are you looking for a rewarding career? Do you enjoy working with people and helping them improve their lives? Then a career in substance abuse counseling may be a great fit for you. Our two-year program will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed as established by the Iowa Board of Substance Abuse Certification to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC)*.

In this Associate in Applied Science program, you’ll gain hands-on experience working in an alcohol and drug treatment unit where you apply the core education and skills you have learned under the direct supervision of a certified counselor. After completing the program and additional hours of experience, you’ll be prepared to take the certification exam through the Iowa Board of Certification*. Additionally, you’ll meet transfer requirements to move on to a four-year degree program.

With this on-the-job training, mentorship and advanced coursework, you’ll establish a strong foundation of skills needed to succeed as a substance abuse counselor. The preparation you do here ensures that you’ll know what to expect when entering the workforce and, even better, that you’ll be ready for it.

Faculty Contact

Amy Ver Mulm
Professor, Human Services Program
712-362-7977 | avermulm@iowalakes.educreate new email

Program Details


DEGREE: Associate in Applied Science (68 credits)

CAMPUS: Estherville


Did You Know?

Starting Salary: $29,928

Average Salary: $47,599

Projected Employment Growth: 2.2%

Online availability 75%


Term 1

Credits: 3

Emphasis on expository and argumentative writings including a review of usage and mechanics.

Prerequisites: Satisfactory score on the ACT, Accuplacer, ASSET,COMPASS as determined by Iowa Lakes policy

Credits: 3

This course introduces students to the value base of human ser­vices and helping professions. Addresses strategies and prac­tices used in assessing and evaluating client needs, establishing and identifying resources and making appropriate referrals. In­take interviews and assessments are explored. Students will de­velop knowledge and basic skills in the area of programming and developing support systems and community resources. Students will increase awareness of working with high risk populations.

Credits: 3

An introduction to the scientific study of behavior; a brief history of psychology as a science, and topics fundamental to human behavior including developmental issues, sensory abilities, cogni­tive performance, social and emotional factors in behavior, and abnormal behavior and therapies.

Credits: 1

Students master the academic and personal skills needed to suc­ceed in higher education and in life. Content will cover academic, communication and life management skills. Goal setting, time management, note taking, test taking and how to be a lifelong learner will also be covered.

Term 2

Credits: 3

This course provides the student with the basic background of the nutrients which are essential in maintaining the physical and mental well-being of the human body.  An overview of the digestive processes and the relationship to each group of nutrients is presented.  Basic nutritional principles of food selection are studied with an emphasis on health promotion throughout the life cycle.  Students examine their personal eating habits and identify ways to promote a healthy nutritional status.

Credits: 3

Continuation of ENG 105 with emphasis on research and docu­mentation as well as literary analysis.

Prerequisites: ENG 105 – Composition I

Credits: 3

Designed to help the student understand sociological aspects of drug use, abuse and treatment.

Credits: 4

This is an introductory course in applied counseling techniques. Students are introduced to a variety of facilitative skills and counseling concepts and work through the interviewing process in simulated helping services settings.

Credits: 3

This is an introductory course in applied counseling techniques. Students are introduced to a variety of facilitative skills and counseling concepts and work through the interviewing process in simulated helping service settings.

Credits: 3

Studies human development from conception through the lifes­pan. Physical, emotional, social, cognitive and moral aspects are studied in the classroom, by lecture, file/video, projects, and observation and by reading the literature.

Choose either BIO 151 or ENG 106
Choose either DSV 160 or HSV 225
Math or Science: 4 credits

Term 3

Credits: 3

Students are given the opportunity to apply human relations concepts and evaluate experience and observations. Social skills required in various occupational settings will be developed, emphasizing how appropriate personal attitudes lead to social and business success.

Credits: 3

CSC-110 is an introductory course that surveys a variety of topics to include history, hardware, software, terminology, com­munications, computer ethics, and societal impact of computers. In addition to computer literacy, students will complete hands-on modules using operating systems, word processing, database, presentation, and spreadsheet software; such as Microsoft Office programs.

Credits: 3

This introductory course examines contemporary ethical conflicts and provides an understanding of the language, concepts and traditions of ethics.

Credits: 3

Survey of the contributions that various minorities have made to the development of the United States.

Term 4

Credits: 3

This course is designed to introduce students to a multidimension­al approach to assessment in making objective patient placement decisions for various levels of care for the treatment and care of substance-related disorders. This course will help prepare stu­dents for their practicum experience.

Credits: 3

A survey course tracing history, models and symptoms of psychiatric disorders. Uses the current DSM-5 (diagnostic and statistical manual) as a standard of abnormal behavior.

Credits: 3

Applies basic scientific sociological concepts and principles to the examination of contemporary social issues such as crime, poverty, violence, and inequality.

Credits: 3

The fundamentals course develops the basic skills involved in a variety of communication situations, including oral presentations and interpersonal speaking.  Emphasis is placed on organization, audience analysis, vocal and physical delivery, listening, nonverbal communication, critical thinking, and methods of dealing with communication apprehension through class discussion and activities.

Credits: 3

This course examines both the theoretical and practical basis of speech communication, particularly public speaking. Emphasis is placed on speech preparation, organization, support, delivery, and audience analysis.

Credits: 3

Examines how humans communicate in one-on-one situations through personal and professional relationships.

Choose either SPC 101, SPC 112 or SPC 122
Humanities: 3 credits

Term 5

Credits: 3

Supervised experience in a chemical dependency agency as ap­proved by the program coordinator and Iowa Board of Certification for Substance Abuse.

Credits: 4

The course provides additional supervised experience in chemical dependency agency as approved by the program coordinator and Iowa Board of Certification for Substance Abuse.

† indicates a course that fulfills the diversity requirement. This course may also fulfill another general AA requirement.