Field of Study: Addiction Counseling
Addiction counseling programs prepare students to work as counselors with people who have alcohol, substance abuse, or gambling addictions. Students learn to assess problems and set up treatment plans. They learn methods for early intervention and prevention.
Have you ever eaten too much or had so much to drink of something that you felt sick? Perhaps you've seen someone doing something to excess that wasn't good for them and wondered why they would do such a thing.
People with addictions do this every day: they do something to excess that isn't good for them. This can include doing drugs, drinking alcohol, gambling, and even eating. Addictions such as these are powerful and can have harmful consequences such as job loss, divorce, criminal activity, and severe illnesses.
From the outside, we might want to ask, "Why don't they just stop?" But if you're an addict, stopping addictive behavior is usually very difficult, especially by yourself. However, studies have shown that addiction is a brain disease. And as a disease, it responds well to treatment.
Addiction counselors provide quality treatment services for addicts by helping them overcome their addictions and lead productive lives. They help addicts heal themselves both physically and mentally and repair damaged relationships. They also counsel friends and family members who have been affected by a person's addiction.
As an addiction counselor, you can work in schools, prisons, or mental health clinics. You can also work in psychiatric hospitals, halfway houses, or in private practice. Some counselors also teach courses and do research that focuses on preventing addiction.
In addiction counseling programs, you take courses in psychology, psychopharmacology (how drugs affect the brain), counseling, and addiction theory. You study different addictions and how they affect the mind, body, and emotions. You learn how to diagnose the addiction, create treatment plans, and run individual and group therapy sessions. You also learn how to work with doctors and social workers, if necessary.
About 130 schools offer addiction counseling programs. However, there are many different kinds of addiction counseling programs. Many two-year schools offer an associate degree or certificate in addiction counseling. Often certificates are offered for people who already have a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field such as nursing, social work, or general counseling. A few schools offer bachelor's and master's degrees in addiction counseling. Several offer minors or concentrations in addiction counseling as part of a counseling, psychology, nursing, or social work program. Very few schools have doctoral degrees in addiction counseling alone.
Associate degrees and certificates usually take one to two years to complete. Typically an entry-level bachelor's degree takes four years. After the bachelor's degree, a master's degree takes two years of additional study.
You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.
- Probability and Statistics
- Advanced Psychology courses
Admission to graduate programs is competitive. You need a bachelor's degree, good grades, and good test scores.
Additional requirements at some schools include:
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General
- Letters of recommendation
- Required courses
Typical course work
This undergraduate program typically includes courses in the following subjects:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Addiction and Spirituality
- Counseling Theory and Techniques
- Cultural Diversity
- Ethics and Law
- Group Counseling
- Human Growth and Development
- Intervention and Assessment
- Theories of Addiction
Graduate programs that lead to a master's or doctoral degree typically include:
- Required courses
- Fieldwork and/or internships
- Thesis (master's degree)
- Preliminary exams (doctoral degree only)
- Dissertation and dissertation defense (doctoral degree)
Things to know
Most states require that you become licensed or certified. Usually you are required to have specific training in addiction counseling plus a bachelor's degree and supervised contact with patients. You must also pass a written exam.
Some addiction counseling programs require that you pass an exam and submit a videotape of yourself interviewing a "mock" patient before you can begin your clinical experience.
Many people with associate degrees in addiction counseling go on to get bachelor's degrees in psychology, social work, or nursing.
Most addiction counseling programs at the bachelor's and master's degree levels include in-depth training in psychology.
Similar fields of study
- Community Services
- Counseling Psychology
- Human Services
- Marriage and Family Counseling
- Mental Health Counseling
- Psychiatric Technology
- Psychology, General
- Recreation Therapy
- Rehabilitation Counseling
- School Counseling
- Social Work
Careers you may qualify for
Marriage and Family Therapists
Mental Health Counselors
Social and Community Service Managers
NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals
Click on "Education."
Schools that offer program
Click on the school name to see a list of their programs related to this field of study.
Bemidji State University
, Located in Northwest
Capella University - Minneapolis , Located in Metro
Century College - White Bear Lake , Located in Metro
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College - Cloquet , Located in Northeast
Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies - Center City , Located in Central
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College - Eveleth , Located in Northeast
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College - Virginia , Located in Northeast
Metropolitan State University - St. Paul - Saint Paul , Located in Metro
Minneapolis Community and Technical College , Located in Metro
Minnesota State University, Mankato , Located in Southeast
North American Training Institute - Duluth , Located in
North Central University - Minneapolis , Located in Metro
Ridgewater College - Hutchinson , Located in Central
Ridgewater College - Willmar , Located in Central
Rochester Community and Technical College , Located in Southeast
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota - Minneapolis , Located in Metro
St. Cloud State University , Located in Central
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - Minneapolis , Located in Metro
Winona State University , Located in Southeast
Winona State University - Online , Located in Southeast