Some Options for Substance Abuse/Addictions Counseling Master’s Degrees

There are many options for addiction counseling degrees at the master’s level. You may earn your degree in addiction studies or may earn it in another discipline, but with a concentration in addiction studies. Some programs simultaneously prepare you for licensure (and independent practice) in other mental health disciplines. Often these are somewhat longer master’s programs, and licensure depends partly on meeting post-degree requirements.

Other programs prepare you only to achieve a high level of certification or licensure in substance abuse counseling.

Addiction Counseling

Addiction counseling is sometimes offered as a specialization within professional counseling. The program may be CACREP-accredited and may simultaneously prepare you for licensure as a professional counselor. In order to achieve this, you will need to fulfill supervised practice requirements. These may be different than those required for the substance abuse credential.

Marriage and Family Therapy or Social Work

Marriage and family therapists have a similar level of education and training as professional counselors. They also complete a supervised practice requirement. However, the curriculum emphasizes different aspects of the human condition; there is typically a systems orientation. If you want to treat addiction within a family or relationship context, you can opt for a marriage and family therapy program with an emphasis in addictions.

Social work is another versatile degree. Programs vary widely. Again, you may have the option of specialization.

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While the practice of professional psychology has mostly transitioned to the doctoral level, there are still plenty of serviced-oriented master’s programs. Some offer a concentration specifically in addictions. If addiction psychology is not an official concentration, it may still be an option to complete practicums in agencies that serve the addicted. You may also have the opportunity to contribute to the body of addiction-related research and literature. In some cases, the program may simultaneously prepare you for a master’s level psychology license. It can even be a step toward entry to doctoral programs. However, this is not a given.

Addiction Studies or Co-Occurring Disorders

You may also opt for a master’s program in addiction studies. You may not be required to take the full range of professional counseling courses. You may have a number of addiction-related electives. You may even be able to choose a specialization – anything from military families to public health. You will probably receive some training in co-occurring disorders.

Addictions studies programs may be shorter and more flexible than professional counseling programs. You will not necessarily be prepared for licensure in any other discipline. Also be aware that though your program may prepare you for the highest level of addiction counseling certification or licensure in many states, it will not necessarily be all; standards vary. Some, but not all, addiction studies master’s programs are designed for professionals who are already working in the field and want to advance.

Closely related is the degree in co-occurring disorders. Programs in co-occurring disorders emphasize treatment of individuals who have co-morbid substance abuse and mental health disorders. While the degree may seem similar, on the surface, to a counseling degree, there can be key differences. The focus may be on providing mental health services in an agency setting. Again, you may not have to take the full breadth of counseling coursework.

Evaluating Options

Some boards are very flexible with regard to what you earn your master’s in, so long as you have the minimum amount of coursework in addiction counseling. They may, for example, credit a degree in health or human services administration.

The title of the degree program is not always a strong indicator of what is included. If you are new to the field, you will want to become familiar with the credentialing agencies operating within your state.

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