At the bachelor's degree level, online programs in counseling most commonly focus on substance abuse or addictions counseling. Online bachelor's degree programs in these fields prepare students to assist individuals with various addictions. Students learn to apply a variety of theories and applications to promote a positive environment and assist patients in obtaining long-term recovery.
While these programs typically allow students to complete all of the standard coursework online, they are still required to complete in-person fieldwork, practica, or supervised clinical experiences at a mutually agreed upon addictions treatment facility. In order to apply, prospective students may need to have an associate's degree.
Some programs require students to have a certain amount of previous college credits or an associate's degree before enrolling. Students who meet these requirements can complete their online counseling bachelor's degree in as little as 22 months. Other schools admit those who just have a high school diploma or GED; these programs can be completed in about 48 months.
Courses within an online substance abuse or addictions counseling bachelor's degree program are designed to teach students about the importance and influences of addictions counseling. Students learn about the history of addictions, as well as how to identify, assess and treat them. Common courses in these programs may include:
- Introductory addictions counseling
- Clinical addictions
- Substance abuse prevention
- Chemical dependency and alcoholism
- Family counseling
- Group counseling techniques
- Ethics in counseling
- Treatment planning
About Distance Learning
Students in online programs in counseling are often able to complete their coursework entirely online through asynchronous formats. Students can work at their own pace, though keeping in mind deadlines for assignments. Students log-in through virtual instructional platforms, such as Blackboard, and download course notes, participate in online class discussions and communicate with instructors.
Most programs also require students to complete in-person practicums or internships at a location near them. Practicum requirements vary by school, and state licensure requirements often require students to complete 150-350 hours of clinical practice in a supervised setting. Students are able to have direct client contact while developing counseling skills and receiving constructive feedback.
Students who graduate with bachelor's degrees in addictions or substance abuse counseling can either continue their education at the graduate level or begin careers in the field. Career opportunities are available in addiction counseling agencies, hospitals, outpatient treatment centers, government agencies or residential treatment facilities. A graduate degree and licensure are needed to work in a private practice. Licensure requirements for substance abuse counselors not working in private practice vary by state, but most states require one to pass a state-administered exam.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has predicted that employment of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will grow by 22% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the national average. Job prospects should be best for those who have completed a training program or degree in the field. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for these workers was $39,980 as of May 2015.
Aspiring counselors who are looking for an online program at the bachelor's degree level may find programs that train them to work with patients struggling with dependency issues. Aside from hands-on training at facilities that provide mental health care, these programs provide all of the necessary instruction through online lectures and discussions.