Those interested in studying addiction counseling online at the associate's degree level have a few options available to them, including an Associate of Applied Science in Human Services Technology with a concentration in substance abuse and an Associate of Science in Addictions Counseling. These associate's degree programs are generally available in a hybrid format, with most of the coursework completed on campus with some distance-learning classes. In fully online programs, students may still be required to participate in in-person hands-on practical learning experiences. Therefore, interested students may consider a more general associate's degree in counseling or psychology, both of which are available entirely online. Online students need to have computers that are equipped to use LearnLinc and Moodle.
In these programs, students learn about addiction theories, psychology, group counseling and pharmacology. Some programs provide the training needed to apply for Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC) or Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP) credentials. However, associate's degree programs alone typically do not satisfy state licensure requirements for counselors; students may need to move on to bachelor's or master's degree programs in the subject.
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Addiction Counseling Associate's Degrees
Though online associate's degree programs may not solely focus on addiction counseling, programs generally cover the fundamentals in addiction and counseling. Students should expect to learn about basics in communication, psychology, addiction science and human behavior.
Program Information and Requirements
The specific nature of online learning will vary among associate's degree programs. Some schools offer their courses through an online classroom where students can work on their own schedule as they access course materials. Other schools offer a blended style of online classroom and a series of live, broadcasted online discussions and lectures that must be attended at a specific time. Software like LearnLinc and Moodle may be used.
Classes in addiction counseling associate's degree programs guide students through basics relevant to understanding addiction and learning how to function as counselors. These classes can serve as an introduction to topics covered in bachelor's degrees programs or entry-level addiction counseling careers.
Anatomy and Physiology
In this introductory course, students learn about the human body. Different systems and organs are explored and discussed. This class is a basic survey of the body and does not include advanced medical topics.
Introduction to Counseling
Students are introduced to the fundamentals of counseling in this course. The different schools of therapy are covered. In addition to understanding counseling theory and history, students will learn counseling techniques.
With an emphasis on specific behavioral modification techniques, like cognitive-behavior therapy, this class focuses on the standard methods of changing behavior. Practical skills that can be used to change behaviors are emphasized.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) an associate's degree alone may not be sufficient preparation for a career in counseling (www.bls.gov). The BLS says that most states require licensed counselors to hold a master's degree. However, the exact rules on the level of education required varies by position. Some associate's degree programs are designed specifically to prepare students in certain states for entry-level or internship positions related to addiction counseling.
Human and social services assistants generally work in clinics and hospitals, which can help future counselors gain experience in these environments and prepare for working with individuals who require addiction counseling. The average annual salary for these assistants was $33,190 in 2015, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Though some careers are available to those with associate's degrees in addiction counseling, further education may be necessary or desired. The associate's degree program can help students prepare to transfer to bachelor's degree programs in addiction counseling, psychology or related fields like social work. After completing a bachelor's degree, some students may then go on to earn master's degrees in relevant fields, as well as pursue professional licensure or certification.
Aspiring addiction counselors can begin the education necessary for this career by earning an online associate's degree that provides general education and an introduction to the basics of psychology, counseling and substance abuse. From there, they can start working as entry-level assistants or advance to bachelor's degree and then master's degree programs so that they can eventually become licensed counselors themselves.