Graduate Certificate Programs in Addiction and Substance Abuse
Addiction and substance abuse graduate certificate programs are academic programs offered by accredited colleges and universities that provide training and instruction in addiction studies and substance abuse treatment. These programs are designed for college graduates and mid-career professionals who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, and/or doctoral degree and who are interested in learning about the behavioral, social, and physiological science of addiction and the evidence-based treatments that are currently deployed to address the problems associated with chemical dependency and abuse. Students in these programs are typically required to complete a small cluster of courses that cover the etiology and symptomology of common types of substance dependency, the assessment and diagnosis of individuals with substance use problems, and various accepted interventions for addiction treatment, including individual and group counseling.
The knowledge and skills cultivated in these graduate certificate programs have practical applications in the field of addiction and substance abuse counseling and treatment. Moreover, graduate certificate programs in this field can help students establish eligibility for state licensure in addiction and substance abuse counseling, as well as for the professional credentials offered by the Association for Addiction Professionals through the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCCAP). Thus, for qualified students, these programs represent a relatively direct pathway to entering the field of addiction and substance abuse treatment without having to spend one or two or more years earning a master’s degree.
Addiction and Substance Abuse Treatment Explained
Alcohol and drug dependency, addiction, and abuse represent a cluster of chronic and acute disorders that present medical, psychological, and socio-economic challenges, adversely affecting individuals, families, and communities. The treatment of individuals suffering from the effects of addiction and substance abuse takes place throughout the health and social services systems, in general and psychiatric hospitals, in specialized addiction treatment facilities, at rehabilitation centers and halfway houses, and in outpatient clinics and private practices. Working in this field requires an understanding of social and behavioral factors that contribute to alcoholism and drug dependency, knowledge of the physiological and pharmacological aspects of substance use disorders, familiarity with contemporary theories of addiction, and training in accepted alcohol and drug abuse prevention and intervention practices.
There are physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals who specialize in treating addiction and chronic substance abuse, as well as non-medical professionals, including clinical social workers and mental health counselors, whose area of practice includes clients in treatment and/or recovery from alcohol- and drug-related disorders. In addition, there are trained professionals who work in the field of addiction and substance abuse prevention, education, treatment, and recovery in various other counseling and support roles. Indeed, while clinical mental health counselors are required to hold a master’s degree in counseling, many states offer licensure* in addiction and substance abuse counseling to qualified individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in addiction and substance abuse treatment and prevention.
Identifying and Classifying Graduate Certificate Programs in Addiction and Substance Abuse
There are several characteristics that can be used to identify programs classified as graduate certificate programs in addiction and substance abuse. Graduate certificate programs, by definition, are non-degree academic programs that require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Thus, a graduate certificate program in addiction and substance abuse is an academic training program that provides targeted coursework in the scientific principles and professional practices of addiction and substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery, typically offered by a school or department of counseling, psychology, or behavioral science at an accredited college or university. These programs generally consist of five or six master’s-level graduate courses that prepare students to work in addiction treatment and substance abuse education, prevention, counseling, and treatment. In fact, many graduate certificate programs in addiction and substance abuse are designed to prepare students to become a state licensed addiction or substance abuse counselors and/or to establish eligibility for one or more of the professional credentials administered by the NCCAP, such as Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC).
Note: While graduate certificate programs in addiction and substance abuse require a bachelor’s degree, these programs are also designed for students who hold master’s and doctoral degrees. In addition, some addiction and substance abuse graduate certificate programs are designed for master’s program graduates (or students who have earned a doctorate degree). These programs, which may be designated as post-master’s or post-graduate certificate programs, do not accept applicants who have not earned a graduate degree.
Substance Abuse and Addiction Graduate Certificate Coursework
As noted above, substance abuse and addiction graduate certificate programs generally consist of four, five, or six courses that offer master’s-level instruction and training in the theories and practices of addiction and substance abuse assessment, prevention, treatment, and recovery. These courses typically cover subject areas outlined in the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC) curriculum guidelines for knowledge, theory, and skill development in addiction studies. These subject areas include: the history of addiction studies; theories of addiction counseling; pharmacology and physiology of chemical dependency; and assessment and treatment modalities for individuals with substance use disorders. Some programs may also incorporate an applied practicum or internship in which students accrue the type of supervised work hours that are required for licensure in most states and for NCCAP credentialing eligibility.
While specific course names and descriptions vary by school and by program, students who enroll in a substance abuse and addiction graduate certificate program can expect to be offered the following types of courses:
- Addiction and Substance Abuse: Assessment and Diagnosis
- Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Drug and Alcohol Use and Dependency
- Comorbidity in Substance Use Related Problems
- Addiction Treatment Planning and Relapse Prevention
- Addiction Counseling with Individuals and Groups
- Physiology and Pharmacology: Clinical Treatment Issues in Chemical Dependency
Note: NASAC accreditation for graduate certificate programs is a voluntary process and, therefore, schools are not required to seek accreditation. However, earning a certificate from NASAC-accredited program may be advantageous in the job market and/or in establishing eligibility for state licensure in addiction and substance abuse treatment and counseling.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling
Graduate certificate programs are generally structured to accommodate college graduates who have already entered the workforce and mid-career professionals who intend to continue working while taking graduate courses. Many programs allow for part-time enrollment and schedule classes at times that are less likely to conflict with traditional work hours. In addition, an increasing number of schools use distance-learning technologies to offer all or most of a graduate certificate program’s required coursework online*.
Online graduate certificate programs in addiction and substance abuse utilize learning management systems (LMSs) to stream live and pre-recorded lectures and virtual class sessions, and to deliver other instructional materials. Students can thus access coursework from home, work, or anywhere else with a secure internet connection. Many online programs offer all of their instruction online, while others require students to attend a limited number of campus visits for orientations, seminars, workshops, and other activities that benefit from in-person face-to-face instruction.
Programs that require students to attend more than three campus visits per year are classified by GraduateCertificates.com as hybrid/blended programs. For students who live near a college or university that offers a certificate program, hybrid and blended programs offer a more convenient option compared to programs that are fully campus-based. However, these programs can require biweekly or monthly attendance on campus and thus may not be practical for students who do not live within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Another factor to consider when exploring online programs is the method of instruction. There are two general modes for online instruction: synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Programs that utilize synchronous instruction require students to be logged on to the school’s LMS for live lectures and classes. Online learning activities that do not have a real-time component, such as pre-recorded lectures that can be streamed at a student’s convenience and assignments that students complete on their own time, are classified as asynchronous instruction. While all online programs have asynchronous elements, not all program utilize synchronous sessions.
Both modes of online instruction have been found to be effective. However, programs that rely solely on asynchronous instruction are thought to require more self-motivation on the part of students. Programs that use synchronous instruction provide a more structured learning experience and more closely resemble traditional campus-based programs, however, they have set times (typically in the evening) that students must be online, which means they are not as flexible as programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction.
It is important to note that some online addiction and substance abuse graduate certificate programs incorporate a site-based internship or practicum. These supervised work experiences cannot be completed via online instruction and require students to spend a specified number of hours at an addiction/substance abuse treatment facility approved by the program. Online students typically complete their internships at an agency that is within commuting distance from their place of residence.
Examples of Online Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling Graduate Certificate Programs
The list below provides an overview of some of the graduate certificate programs in addiction, addiction studies, and substance abuse counseling and treatment programs that are currently offered in an online format by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities.
Arizona State University (ASU) offers an online Addiction and Substance-Use Related Disorders Graduate Certificate program through ASU Online. The 21-credit program is designed for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree, as well as master’s and doctoral program students, particularly those who have studied or have an interest in behavioral health. Students in the program complete seven courses that cover topics in psychopharmacology, ethics, assessment and diagnosis, interventions, and group therapy for substance-use disorders. This curriculum meets the core educational content requirements for licensure in Arizona and most other states. The ASU Online program does not have any campus visit requirements. For additional details on the program, visit ASU Online at asuonline.asu.edu.
Purdue University Global, an online division of the Purdue University System, offers an online Graduate Certificate in Addictions program. This is a post-baccalaureate program designed for college graduates who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field. The program consists of six didactic courses that cover topics in pharmacology, individual and group counseling, co-occurring disorders, and professional ethics, as well as a 20-week practicum that students must complete in-person at a program-approved site. However, students can complete all of the program’s didactic coursework via online instruction without having to attend any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit Purdue University Global at www.purdueglobal.edu.
City University of Seattle offers an online Graduate Certificate in Chemical Dependency Counseling program with an addictions and substance abuse treatment curriculum. The 15-credit program consists of three five-credit courses that cover topics in addiction pharmacology and physiology, legal and ethical issues in substance abuse treatment, and individual, group, and family counseling. City University of Seattle’s program is a post-master’s certificate program that requires applicants to have completed a master’s degree and is designed for counselors, social workers, and other professionals who are interested in cultivating expertise in addiction and substance abuse counseling. Students in the program are not required to attend any campus visits. For more information about the program, visit City University of Seattle at cityu.edu.
More Graduate Certificates in Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling
*Licensing for substance abuse and addictions counselors vary by state. Students interested in pursuing licensure should review requirements in their state of residence before pursuing a graduate certificate program to ensure it will meet the educational and clinical requirements for licensure. In addition, students considering an online graduate certificate program offered by an out-of-state school should confirm the school accepts students from their state of residence, as some online programs do not accept students from all 50 states.
Additional Graduate Certificates in Counseling and Psychology
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