Online Substance Abuse Counselor Degree Program Options

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Online or hybrid degree programs in substance abuse counseling can be found at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. Some programs require a few on-campus classes or a supervised internship or other field experience. Bachelor's degree programs may require students to complete prerequisite courses, and master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.

The educational requirements for a substance abuse counselor vary by employment setting and state regulations and range from a high school diploma to a graduate degree. Counselors in private practice are required to be licensed; check for state-specific licensing requirements before choosing an educational program.

Associate's Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling

Through an online associate's degree program, students can develop the knowledge and skills necessary to counsel people suffering from substance abuse. Major areas of study include human psychology, understanding drug abuse and counseling. These programs are designed to provide a foundation for a career in the field as well as a path for further study and specialization.

Program Information and Requirements

Many programs require students to retrieve their assignments, participate in discussions and submit their homework online. Students should have access to a computer with high-speed Internet connectivity. Most courses utilize textbooks as well as downloadable presentations and interactive modules, such as audio and video. Associate's-level programs may be offered completely online; however, they often include a combination of distance education and on-campus classes as well as field-practice elements.

Common Online Courses

Associate's degree students explore the core aspects of substance abuse and patient counseling, such as occupational therapy and practical application of treatment strategies. Students should be comfortable working with computers and have a basic knowledge of Internet search.

Introduction to Psychology

In this course, students learn the multiple facets of human behavior and function. Major areas of study include learning, personality, deviance, and pathology and social influences. Human behavior in social, personal and employment settings is also examined.

Drug Abuse

This online course provides an overview of substance abuse in American society. Topics of discussion include the major factors that determine drug and alcohol dependency and examination of the chemicals that are most often abused.

Basic Counseling Skills

This course prepares students to use a variety of techniques in counseling patients diagnosed with substance abuse. Skills, such as paraphrasing, probing, interpretation and confrontation, are closely examined.

Bachelor's Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling

Bachelor's degree programs allow students to acquire new skills or enhance their knowledge of the issues surrounding substance abuse counseling, including how to diagnosis, evaluate, prevent and treat. Many online programs combine textbook assignments and classroom discussions with research projects and internships.

Program Information and Requirements

Some institutions require bachelor's candidates to complete prerequisite coursework in a variety of subjects, such as psychology and interpersonal communications. Many programs are taught completely online and include downloadable lectures and discussion board participation; however, some schools require students to take part in group assignments on-campus. Students also are required to participate in an internship in a clinical setting under supervision of their instructor or a facility manager.

Common Online Courses

Students examine complex areas of substance abuse with a particular focus on individual and group counseling. They also learn how to develop individualized treatment plans.

Substance Abuse Treatment

In this online course, students examine theories and techniques of substance abuse treatment for individuals and groups. Major areas of focus include crisis intervention, consultation and client reports and record keeping.

Substance Abuse and the Family

Students examine family dynamics with an emphasis on the effects of substance addiction on families. Topics of discussion include the impact of mood-altering substances and their related behaviors, interventions and treatment.

Case Management

This course presents an analysis of case management in the clinical setting. Topics of discussion include the roles and responsibilities of case managers and counselors, counseling skills and treatment planning.

Master's Degree in Substance Abuse Counselor

Institutions are increasingly offering students the opportunity to pursue a master's degree in substance abuse counseling online. Students generally must complete a set of core classes, which may be available in both fully online or hybrid formats. A practicum and clinical internship, both with a set amount of hours, are required by most schools in order to complete an online master's program.

Program Information and Requirements

Applicants typically must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Many classes are conducted online, but students are typically required to attend on-campus lectures as well as complete field internships.

Common Online Courses

Master's students examine key issues in substance abuse counseling in order to enhance their skills in the counseling and treatment of patients suffering from chemical dependencies.

Issues in Clinical Supervision

In this course, students examine the various methods required to establish effective and appropriate treatment plans. Areas of focus include consultation and supervision techniques along with reviewing and modifying professional therapist treatment tactics.

Group Counseling for Addictive Behavior

Students are introduced to the group counseling process with chemically addicted persons. Topics of discussion include theories on group counseling and best practices in leading a group session.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Treatments

Students learn how to work with patients that have been diagnosed with both a substance addiction and a mental disorder. Particular focus is placed on treatment models and an analysis of research and case studies as they apply to co-occurring theory.

Career Information

Requirements for certification or licensure as a substance abuse counselor vary by state. Requirements usually entail education (approved courses or degree) and practical training and clinical work experience, both under supervision. Individuals with an associate's degree are generally eligible for certification or licensure in most states. Associate's degree applicants must have logged more work experience and contact hours with clients than applicants with either a bachelor's or master's degree. Specific information can be found on each state's Department of Health website.

Graduates with a bachelor's degree in substance abuse counseling generally are equipped to pursue a license as a certified counselor, which is mandatory in most states. Career options can include counseling positions in locations, such as hospitals and halfway houses. The median annual salary for all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $44,630 as of May 2018 and reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Those who've successfully completed a master's degree program are generally able to attain senior- or managerial-level positions in substance abuse counseling in a variety of settings, including drug and alcohol treatment centers. As of May 2018, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for medical and health services managers was $99,730.

Associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree programs in substance abuse counseling can be found online or in a hybrid format as some require a hands-on element. Common courses include topics on treatment, behavior, and psychology of patients.

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