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Courses Needed to Become a Drug and Alcohol Counselor

by Jana Sosnowski

Patients suffering from drug and alcohol addiction may need help beyond medical treatment. Those who seek help or are referred to seek help may work with a substance abuse counselor. The substance abuse counselor assesses the patient's overall mental health, the extent of the addiction problem and the patient's desire to participate in treatment. Additionally, the counselor works to develop treatment plans and to educate families to support the patient's recovery.

Licensing Requirements for a Drug and Alcohol Counselor

The ability to practice as a substance abuse counselor in the United States is licensed by individual states. Substance abuse professionals range from registered recovery workers to fully licensed counselors, with education requirements ranging from certification after high school to graduate programs. The National Board for Certified Counselors administers the Examination for Master Addictions Counselors for national licensing, while individual states administer exams for varying levels of practice.

Master of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling

In graduate psychology departments, the master of science in substance abuse counseling is one degree program that meets the requirements for licensing as a drug and alcohol counselor. The program at Coppin State University in Maryland requires core courses focusing on the study of physiological and psychological aspects of addiction, addiction prevention, advanced individual and group counseling and management of treatment programs. Variations in core requirements, such as those at Grand Canyon University, include study of co-occuring disorders, family issues and issues in adolescent addiction.

Bachelor's Programs in Substance Abuse Counseling

Undergraduate study in substance abuse counseling qualifies students to work with patients in health care settings. Core courses for the major at the University of Central Arkansas include the study of mental health and the theory and practice of prevention and drug education. Additional courses required by the program at the University of South Dakota include the study of ethical and legal issues involved in addiction and the study of families and addiction. Elective specializations include in-depth study of either treatment or prevention of drug and alcohol use. Courses may also include a focus on specific segments of a population, age-based groups or ethnic groups.

Certificate Programs for Counseling Associates

Certificate programs, such as the one offered at UCLA Extension, qualify students to become Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor Associates in the state of California. Enrollment does not require a college degree, and requirements include both theory and completion of a practicum. Courses cover topics in community resources, social and pharmacological aspects of addiction, ethics and chemical dependency and communicable diseases. Required courses for the certificate program at Mercy College include sociology, health psychology and social psychology. Additional courses focus on counseling skills in preparation for fieldwork.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

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