Substance Abuse Counselor Courses and Classes Overview

Substance abuse counselor courses train students to help substance abusers recover from addiction in an individual or group counseling environment. These courses are taken through a certificate or degree program.

Essential Information

The level of education a substance abuse counselor needs varies according to an individual's state and desired position. For example, schools offer short certificate programs for those possessing a high school diploma. Substance abuse counselor courses are also offered within the curriculum of undergraduate and graduate psychology, substance abuse counseling and human services degree programs. Bachelor's and master's programs in the field commonly prepare students for required state examinations, with master's programs helping them meet licensure requirements for working in private practice.

Substance abuse counseling certificate and degree programs are available in online and on-campus formats. Clinical experiences counseling clients at a nearby facility are often required, although some schools make these experiences optional yet highly recommended. After graduating, students may need additional internship hours to get certified to work as a substance abuse counselor in their state.

List of Courses

Several courses for aspiring substance abuse counselors are described below.

Understanding Addiction Course

This class serves as an introduction to the psychological, social and genetic factors that contribute to the development of addictions and dependency. It also explains how addiction and substance abuse affect an individual's behavior and his or her interaction with family and society. The legal, medical, political and moral perspectives on substance abuse are examined. Coursework in counseling theory is supplemented by case studies.

Individual Counseling Course

Students learn to engage in one-on-one substance abuse counseling with individual clients. Work starts with an initial interview which includes a screening and assessment process. Students then discover means of establishing a relationship and building trust between the counselor and the client. The course covers a variety of treatment options for the individual counseling setting.

Group Counseling Course

Group therapy is a key element to many substance abuse counseling plans. The group can consist of other substance abusers, such as in support groups, or an individual's family and friends, such as in an intervention. For group counseling to be successful, students must build leadership skills and develop an understanding of group dynamics. This course addresses group treatment options and the counselor's role as facilitator.

Counseling Ethics Course

This course examines the ethical issues presented in substance abuse counseling. Students learn the moral and legal obligations the counselor has to maintain confidentiality, objectivity and competence. Courses address circumstances that can affect these rules, such as maintaining confidentiality when counseling minors.

Dual Diagnosis Counseling Course

In some cases, a substance abuse client may also be diagnosed with a mental disorder. Dual diagnosis courses explain how mental illness can affect addictive behavior and how counselors can assess these cases. Students learn to work with psychiatrists or other counselors in developing treatment plans that address both issues. Individual and group counseling options are explored.

Pharmacology Course

The physical and mental effects of alcohol and drugs are explained in this class. Students learn about the development of tolerances and dependence as well as the impact of withdrawal on the body. Students also become familiar with medicines used to combat substance abuse, such as those that reduce cravings or suppress withdrawal symptoms.

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