Substance Abuse Counseling Graduate Programs

Graduate Substance Abuse Counselor Programs prepare students to help patients struggling with dependency and addiction. This may include evaluating clients, creating and enacting best treatment plans, and supporting families impacted by addiction.

Substance Abuse Counseling Graduate Programs

Substance Abuse Graduate Programs

Graduate Substance Abuse Counselor Programs may touch on several different types of dependency, including drug and alcohol use, and explore possible treatments and solutions. Classes may also examine the many top psychological factors impacting substance abuse, and hone the rehabilitation counseling skills and knowledge you may use to help patients in the field.

Popular Substance Abuse Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs

ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
Chemical Dependent ServicesUniversity of Great FallsMS
Alcohol and Drug AbuseWestern Michigan UniversityN/A
Addictions CounsellingUniversity of LethbridgeMEd
Addiction CounselingUniversity of Nevada, RenoMEd
Alcohol and Drug StudiesUniversity of PaisleyN/A
AddictionsUniversity of Central FloridaN/A
Addiction Studies ProgramUniversity of Arkansas - Pine BluffMEd
Alcohol and Substance Abuse CounselingSpringfield CollegeMS
Master of Science - Counseling - Addiction and Substance AbuseMid-America Christian UniversityMS
Professional Mental Health and Addiction CounselingLewis & Clark CollegeMS
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Substance-Related and Addictive DisorderNational UniversityPhD
M.S. in Addiction CounselingGrand Canyon UniversityMS
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Programs may be offered at the masters and doctorate levels, both on campus and online.

Types of Substance Abuse Counselor Programs: Addiction Counselor Degree Programs

Addiction counseling, drug abuse, and substance abuse counseling degrees may be available at variety of levels. Each one may carry unique potential benefits and goals. While most programs would cover core topics in counseling and addiction, the specific requirements and coursework may vary. Some may even concentrate on specific types of addiction, or certain substance abuse counseling techniques. Consider your goals, experience and areas of interest to determine which Substance Abuse Counselor programs may be perfect for you.

Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling Degree Programs

Earning Masters Degree in Addiction Counseling psychology could help you to develop a comprehensive understanding of psychological and chemical dependency, as well as different ways to combat it. Programs like this may be an attractive option for those hoping to practice substance abuse counseling in a private practice or who want to conduct an addiction counseling program in a private setting. That's because a masters degree typically is the minimum requirement for pursuing a state license.i (Check with your state regulating board to learn more about what that entails.) Students may be able to complete a substance abuse masters program in around two years of full time study. However, program length may vary by school.

Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling Programs may also be offered under different names. These include Masters in Addiction Counseling, M.S. in Substance Abuse, or Master of Arts in Human Services – Addictions and Recovery. However, whatever they’re called, each may cover a standard track of similar coursework. Some courses you might take in a Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling program are listed below.

  • Theories of counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Addiction and substance abuse and recovery
  • Psychopathology
  • Clinical diagnosis and treatment planning
  • Stress, grief, and trauma

In addition to coursework, to earn a Masters Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling, you may be required to complete one or more counseling internships, or another form of supervised experience. Check with your preferred programs for details. (And keep in mind that to earn a state license, you’ll need to complete between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of supervised practice!)i

Doctorate in Substance Abuse Counseling Programs

Several different types of substance abuse counseling doctoral programs maybe offered. These include options like a PhD in Addiction Studies, a Doctor of Psychology or PsyD in Substance Abuse, or D.S.W. (Doctor of Social Work) in Addictions and Social. A doctoral program may emphasize substance abuse counseling theory and practice, and related research. Practicum and internship elements may also be an important part of some programs.

So what might you study in a doctoral program? Here’s a sampling of potential knowledge areas.

  • Ethical and legal issues in counseling
  • Research in rehabilitation
  • Biostatistics
  • Rehabilitation counseling supervision

Most doctorate in addiction counseling programs require 2-4 years of full time study and may have a dissertation requirement. Additionally, a masters degree may be needed for entry. Programs and schools vary so visit our directory of doctorate degree in substance abuse counseling to learn more and contact schools.

Substance Abuse Counseling Certificate Programs

A graduate certificate in substance abuse counseling may be useful for counselors from other specialties who wish to expand their practices, as well as experienced addiction counselors who want to learn more about a certain topic.

Unlike a Masters in Addiction Counseling degree, this credential is not a graduate degree. However, with a shorter completion time, a graduate certificate may be a great way to explore new knowledge areas or pursue continuing education. You could sample substance abuse counseling coursework or, if you are already engaged in the field, gain new skills and knowledge. Some addiction certificate programs may even count towards continuing education requirements to maintain licensure. Check with you state for details.

Potential courses you could take include the following.

  • Social work intervention
  • Psychology of drug use
  • Addictions rehabilitation
  • Tobacco control and prevention

Programs vary. To see what addiction certificate programs may be available to you and learn more, check out our directory and contact schools directly.

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors typically must meet minimum educational requirements and hold a state license or certification. However the specific requirements might vary depending on the state where you live, the type of practice you hope to potentially work in, and the type of services you plan to offer.

Drug and alcohol counselors who plan to work in a private practice often need to hold a state license. This typically requires at least a masters in substance abuse counseling or a related area, as well as anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. You may also need to pass an exam and pursue continuing education every year, among other possible requirements. Check with your state’s regulating board for the specifics!i

If you do not plan to work in a private practice, credential requirements may vary. Some may not even have a specific drug and alcohol counseling degree requirements. That said, many may require certification and the passing of an exam to practice.

Employers typically require a bachelor's degree for entry level positions. However, counselors with graduate level education may be able to provide a wider range of services to their clients, such as one-on-one counseling.i While the specific figures may vary by position, the average substance abuse counselor salary was $42,150 in 2016. i

Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
Napa, CA$82,260Not Reported
Urban Honolulu, HI$80,510350
Madera, CA$78,78040
Trenton, NJ$75,260270
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA$75,230110

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Choosing a Graduate Substance Abuse Counseling Program

So, how might you choose from the potential Substance Abuse Graduate programs that could help you prepare for a counseling career path? There are lots of important factors to keep in mind. Here are three big ones.

  • Program Accreditationii– Be sure your school is accredited by an organization that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This may be a good indicator of program quality. Plus, it’s necessary to be eligible for federal financial aid.
  • Program Format – You may be able to choose from potential programs on campus, online, or in a hybrid (blended) format. One possible benefit of pursuing a Graduate Substance Abuse Counselor Degree online or partly-online is that you could potentially study at the times that work best for you. For busy working students, flexibility may make all the difference! Or if you prefer in person interactions and learning, consider on campus programs. This may allow for more hands on learning and access to extended campus facilities.
  • Curriculum and Focus – Be sure to evaluate potential Graduate Substance Abuse Counselor Programs based on your career goals, and what you hope to learn. For example, if you are interested in addiction counseling, perhaps earning an M.S. in Substance Abuse Counseling is the perfect path. If you’d like to explore substance abuse as it pertains to social work, maybe pursuing a D.S.W. (Doctor of Social Work) makes more sense.

Sources: [i] | [ii]

Top 15 Substance Abuse Counselor Graduate Programs Below​

  • Offering two quality, competency-based online learning formats: FlexPath & GuidedPath
  • Online degrees in business, counseling, education, health administration, human services, information technology, nursing, public health, psychology and social work.
  • 97% of alumni agree FlexPath provided the flexibility they needed to pursue their degree (Alumni Outcomes Survey 2017)
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