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Addiction counselors work with individuals coping with problems with alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling and eating disorders. Distance education programs allow students to complete coursework online, while obtaining clinical experience on campus or in the community. Online programs range from entry-level bachelor's degree programs to master's degree programs in counseling and psychology.
These programs are available partially online while psychology degrees are available fully online. Degree levels available include bachelor's, master's, and graduate certificates. Internships and clinical experience are required in-person.
Bachelor's degree programs related to addiction counseling can be found as Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in addiction studies, substance abuse counseling and addictions counseling. These programs prepare students to enter the workforce in an entry-level position and often include clinical experiences to meet the requirements for certification in some states. Some programs are focused on a specific type setting, such as health care settings. Online learners follow the same faculty-led curriculum as campus-based programs; however, students access coursework using online learning platforms and communication tools. This program qualifies students to advance to a master's-level degree program, if desired.
The bachelor's program allows students to explore the anatomy and physiology that causes substance abuse and influences social behavior, as well as counseling tactics. Field experience may be required prior to applying for state licensure. Students take classes such as:
- Ethical and legal issues in addiction
- Addiction counseling theory and practice
- Addictions treatment
- Abnormal behavior
- Group counseling
At the graduate level, those interested in becoming addiction counselors can earn a master's degree in an area like substance abuse counseling, addiction counseling, or psychology with a concentration in addictions. These degree programs are designed to provide students with the academic foundation necessary for state licensure. The majority of the required classes can be completed online, but some clinical coursework must be completed on campus. Field experience, which is coordinated through the college, must be completed before the student is eligible for licensure.
The master's programs include a course of study that explores various counseling approaches. Online learners also delve into the impact of substance abuse on families and the influence of drugs and alcohol on behavior. A few of the topics include:
- Counseling theory and practice
- Abnormal psychology
- Substance abuse
- Medical and psychological aspects of disabilities
Certificate programs prepare students to work in community drug and alcohol programs as opposed to private practice. The inclusion of conceptual and theoretical perspectives prepares students for state licensure. A mandatory internship provides students with the practical skills necessary to be a successful counselor. Coursework is presented using online course management systems, such as Sakai.
The certificate program creates a foundation that prepares aspiring counselors to assess and develop treatment plans for individuals with substance abuse issues. Students explore the addiction process, symptoms of intoxication and the translation of needs into a treatment process. Mandatory coursework may include:
- Drugs and society
- Addiction and working with the criminal justice system
- Treatment planning assessment
- Relapse prevention
- Counseling theory
Students can complete addiction counseling training partially online either through a certificate or degree program at the bachelor's or master's level. Topics that will be visited during these training programs include counseling theory, relapse prevention, substance abuse, and abnormal psychology.