Substance Abuse Counseling PhD Programs

Doctoral degrees in substance abuse counseling are available in various forms, such as Rehabilitation Counseling and Counseling Psychology degrees. Students must participate in an internship to apply what they learned in the classroom.

Essential Information

Doctoral degree programs in substance abuse counseling include the PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling with a specialization in addictions therapy. PhD holders can work as researchers or as college professors and, with appropriate licensure, as substance abuse counselors. Another option for students is the PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling with a concentration in substance abuse and clinical counseling. A related program is the PhD in Counseling Psychology, which may include substance abuse therapy training.

A master's degree in rehabilitation counseling, substance abuse counseling or related field, entrance courses to qualify for admission; 3.0-3.5 graduate GPA, GRE scores; post-master's professional experience preferred. It takes four years or longer, depending on the length of the dissertation process to complete this program. Students participate in internships wherein they gain supervised professional experience during the final year of their programs.

PhD in Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance abuse counseling PhD programs are research intensive and prepare students for scholarly work and professorships, as well as work in the private sector. Doctoral degree students learn through practical counseling experiences and dissertation preparation and defense. Ph.D. students are generally required to complete a skills test, which is often a combination of questions-and-answers and essays. Substance abuse counseling PhD classes include:

  • Rehabilitation therapy theories
  • Session therapy
  • Counseling ethics
  • Prevention strategies
  • Diversity training
  • Advanced treatment techniques

Popular Career Options

Graduates with a PhD in a substance abuse-related field can work in a number of settings including government, nonprofit and private sectors. Doctoral degree graduates can work as:

  • Researchers
  • Published scholars
  • Professors
  • Alcohol and drug addictions counselors
  • Substance abuse program administrators

Professional Certifications and Continuing Education

Doctoral degree graduates who wish to work as therapists must apply for individual state licensure, which is required in most states. Organizations such as the National Board for Certified Counselors,, and the NAADAC Association for Addiction Professionals,, offer voluntary professional Master Addictions Counselor certifications. Professionals who earn this credential are eligible to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation as substance abuse professionals to provide counseling to drug and alcohol offenders.

Students who want to master the substance abuse counseling field can earn a doctorate degree and can go on to work and work careers such as researchers, professors and substance abuse program administrators. The program takes about 4 years or longer to complete and will most likely include a dissertation and internship.

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