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Overview of Graduate Degree Programs in Substance Abuse Counseling

Majors Overview June 14, 2017

This article talks about graduate degree programs in substance abuse counseling and their education requirements, coursework, and job and wage outlook.

Graduate Degree Programs in Substance Abuse Counseling

Students enrolled in a graduate program in substance abuse counseling are trained for careers as a researcher, substance abuse counselor, educator or clinical administrator. They learn about treating addictions to various vices, including illegal drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pharmaceuticals. Coursework may cover topic areas such as addiction diagnosis, treatment development, group counseling, and detoxification techniques. Those seeking licensure or certification in substance abuse counseling would need a master’s degree in the majority of states. They may pursue a doctorate program that could lead to academic or administrative positions.

Master’s Programs in Substance Abuse Counseling

Master’s programs in substance abuse counseling typically combine fieldwork and coursework. A degree in general counseling is offered in some programs along with a concentration option in substance abuse and addiction while the focus in other programs is on substance abuse. Students will be trained in evaluating individual needs, creating treatment plans and working in group counseling sessions to offer assistance to people with substance abuse issues.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse counseling from an accredited school. Prerequisite coursework in some programs may cover subject areas such as research methods, statistics, and general psychology to be completed before students are allowed to begin core coursework.

Coursework

Coursework in a substance abuse counseling program often goes beyond the addiction itself and covers a wide array of mental health subjects and counseling practices, such as:

•Detoxification techniques
•Trauma and grief therapy
•Group counseling exercises
•Abused substances
•Evaluation and treatment of addictions
•Family counseling

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2014 – 2024 decade, counselors are expected to see a 22% job growth, driven by a growing trend to offer treatment to substance abusers rather than imprison them (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2016, substance abuse counselors brought in an average annual wage of $41,070 (BLS).

Doctorate Programs in Substance Abuse Counseling

Ph.D. programs in counseling psychology and counseling education offer specializations or concentrations in drug addiction or substance abuse counseling. These programs often have a research-base and are oriented towards training individuals for administrative roles, the establishment of private practices or careers as counseling educators. Students can complete doctorate degrees in counseling within 2-5 years including a year of monitored fieldwork.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a master’s degree in counseling or a related mental health field. Applicants for admission to some programs are required to have completed two years of professional practice and to submit a personal achievement and professional resume as well as personal references. They may also be required to attend an one-on-one interview with a school’s doctoral council to have their counseling aptitude assessed.

Coursework

The curriculum of doctoral programs comprises research, core studies, and statistical analysis. Students will typically have to complete a specific number of hours in substance counseling in environments such as mental health facilities, hospitals, and clinics. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Statistical data and research documentation
•Diagnosis and treatment plans
•Relationships and family dynamics
•Ethics, laws, and professional behavior
•Group and singles therapy
•Theoretical counseling practices
•Dissertation or individual study
•Drug and alcohol counseling
•Advanced substance abuse

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2016, mental health counselors, including specialists in substance abuse, brought in an average annual wage of $44,170 (BLS). In 2013, clinical directors in residential substance abuse facilities and residential program directors brought in an average annual wage of $54,610 and $47,000 respectively.

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