How to Get a Masters in Addiction Counseling Degree?

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This article will tell you about how to get your master’s degree in addiction counseling, which is a popular specialty in the psychology field. We will provide information about the most important criteria for choosing a master’s program, and how to choose a program that suits your career goals. We also have conducted research to recommend a quality online addiction counseling master’s program.

What Is a Master’s in Addiction Counseling Degree?

A master’s degree in addiction counseling is a graduate degree that takes two years to earn in most cases. It focuses on providing students with the knowledge and skills to become an effective, licensed addiction counselor.

With this master’s degree, you will be in a strong position to have a good, prosperous career. The American Psychological Association or APA states that in excess of 40 million people in the US have a nicotine, drug or alcohol addiction.

The field of addiction counseling is growing in popularity because more people in America are being sentenced to drug treatment instead of long jail sentences. The new thinking is that minor drug offenders should be counseled and treated rather than treated like serious felons. Whether this is correct or not, the new philosophy is certain offered more job opportunities for addiction counselors.

This degree will teach you how to become a skilled mental health professional who helps patients who are struggling with drug addictions. Your main responsibilities are to work with individuals and families to treat addictions as well as mental and emotional disorders that tend to cause drug abuse and addiction problems.

Your degree program will consist of both online classes and in person clinical practice where you will practice your counseling skills. You will develop advanced techniques to assist your clients in determining the behaviors and situations that lead to drug addiction in the first place. You also will help your clients to find employment, and possibly refer them to other resources.

Learn Advanced Treatment Techniques

The exact content of your master’s program will vary, but some of the standard behavioral treatments that you will likely learn are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy can help people with addictions to overcome their substance abuse problem by teaching them how to avoid destructive behaviors and thoughts. Learn how to show patients to recognize trigger situations for drug cravings and to them avoid those triggers.
  • Motivational interviewing: Use structured conversations that assist patients to boost their motivation to overcome drug abuse problems. Help them to recognize the difference between their current life and how they want to live years from now.
  • Contingency management: Offer tangible benefits to encourage your patients to stay away from drugs. You might offer them financial rewards, work, clinical privileges and even restaurant vouchers. Studies have proven that contingency management programs assist in keeping people clean and sober.

After you have completed your master’s program in addiction counseling, you must be licensed to practice in your state. You should consult the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards to determine the licensure requirements for your state. You will need to complete several hundred hours of a supervised internship or practicum to attain licensure.

Why Earn a Master’s in Addiction Counseling Degree?

Many professionals are drawn to addiction counseling because they have a passion for helping people to overcome addictions. Some counselors even suffered from addictions themselves and want to help others to overcome them, although this is not necessary to become an effective addictions counselor.

Another draw to the addiction counseling field is a surge in demand for these mental health professionals in the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that job demand for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will increase by 22% by 2024.

Growth in this field is being driven by several factors. First, addiction and mental health services are increasingly covered by insurance policies. Second, millions more Americans have access to health insurance today than a decade ago.

The law currently requires all healthcare plans to cover treatment for mental health problems. This fact will boost access to addiction treatment and prevention services. Hospitals and mental health facilities will hire more counselors to handle the influx of new patients.

Last, demand in this field is increasing because many states are choosing to treat minor drug offenders after a short jail term, rather than keep them locked up for years. Criminal justice experts maintain that drug offenders are less likely to offend again if they get treatment instead of just jail time.

The median pay for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in 2015 with a master’s degree or higher was $63,000 per year. So, with an advanced degree in this field, you will have the ability to find a good job at a solid salary, as well as help other people reach their full potential – drug free.

Master’s Level Degree Options

Capella University’s Master in Addiction Studies has been crafted to provide you with advanced counseling competencies that are necessary to help people to overcome addictions.

The program is two years in length online and also has a six week residency that you will complete in your local area. You will study a curriculum that covers both the theoretical and practical skills that are needed to offer treatment for many addictive behaviors.

This Higher Learning Commission-accredited program includes a class in supervision and program management, and the internship in your home area is 300 hours in length. The requirements of this master’s program fully align with the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium that states have established for credentialing examinations.

You will learn to identify situations and behaviors that lead to addiction problems, and then use counseling theories, approaches and models to guide individuals and groups who have drug addiction problems. You also will apply skills, knowledge, and best practices that are related to drug treatment. Then, select the proper assessments to evaluate your clients and to develop a customized treatment plan.

Required courses include:

  • Advanced Research in Adult Human Development and Behavior
  • Advanced Study in Research Methods
  • Fundamental of Social Science Research
  • Advanced Qualitative Research Methods
  • Advanced Program Design
  • Advanced Program Evaluation
  • Epistemology of Knowledge and Theory

After you have earned your degree and state license, consider earning an addiction counseling certification from the Association for Addiction Professionals. They offer several certifications that can enhance your counseling skills and marketability.


The American Psychological Association does not currently accredit online psychology programs. You still should confirm if your online program has been accredited by a respected accreditation body. One organization to look for is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, or CACREP.

We also recommend that you verify that the university has been accredited regionally by one of the six regional accreditation bodies recognized by the Department of Education.


The addiction counseling field is rapidly growing in popularity and demand, as more people are getting drug treatment than long jail sentences. As long as this revised public policy regarding minor drug offenders continues, we expect that the addiction counseling field will experience a steady rise in demand for the next decade. Earning your master’s in this growing field should ensure you a prosperous counseling career.