Online Substance Abuse Counseling Certificates and Certifications

Get info about online certificate programs in substance abuse counseling. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Although requirements vary from state to state, online substance abuse counseling certificate programs typically prepare graduates to meet the majority of certification requirements. Graduates should be prepared to effectively counsel individuals dealing with substance abuse issues.

Online postbaccalaureate certificate programs in substance abuse counseling are relatively common. Online certificate programs may incorporate campus-based courses and internships are required.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the educational requirements for a career as a substance abuse counselor vary according to the work setting, type of work, level of responsibility and state requirements. In general, substance abuse counselors who work in private practice must be licensed, and licensing requires a master's degree.

Online Availability Courses online or hybrid format
Online Requirements Plug-ins like Flash and Adobe Reader
In-Person Requirements Internship

Substance Abuse Counseling Certificate

Substance abuse counseling certificate programs may be offered as an addictions counseling or alcohol and drug studies program. Regardless of the title, it provides graduates with the therapeutic skills and knowledge needed to assist individuals suffering from drug and alcohol abuse.

Students learn to provide both prevention and treatment services. They also prepare to form education and community outreach programs regarding addiction, as well as facilitate counseling in a group setting. Areas covered might include compulsive behavior treatment, physiology of addiction, crisis management, relapse prevention and co-occurring disorders.

Information and Requirements

An online certificate program, usually 15 credits in length, sometimes incorporates campus-based courses. Supervised internship hours may be required. Students can communicate with professors and fellow students through instant messaging, message boards and e-mail. Opportunities can arise to take part in group projects and video presentations online.

In order to view all online components, computer requirements commonly include an updated operating system, a DVD drive and plug-ins, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader and Flash Player. Online programs typically have technical assistance available for students who have issues with online learning.

Common Courses

The curriculum for an online certificate in substance abuse counseling covers a wide range of topics that focus on improving the patient's quality of life and substance abuse's long term impact.

Counseling Theories

Students look at the theories behind counseling a variety of populations, including families, adolescents and women. The course covers group processes, co-occurring mental disorders and systems theory.

Drug and Alcohol Use and Abuse

This course takes a broad look at alcohol and drug use and abuse, including relevant historical, social and biopsychosocial factors. Topics include substance abuse social policy, substance use disorders and the continuum of care.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Instructors teach students all aspects of substance abuse treatment, from prevention to continuing care. They explore models of drug abuse treatment, adolescent treatment and cognitive-behavioral techniques.

Career Information for Graduates

Employment settings for substance abuse counselors include substance abuse and mental health facilities, hospitals, outpatient care centers and government agencies. Substance abuse counselors, grouped with behavioral disorder counselors, were expected to see employment growth of 31% from 2012-2022, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors had median annual earnings of $39,270 as of May 2014 (

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Certification requirements for substance abuse counselors vary from state to state, but they typically require a minimum number of educational and clinical hours. Most online certificate programs meet a large portion, if not all, of the educational requirements. Credits earned can sometimes be applied towards a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree program, depending on the participants previous educational experience.

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