Houston Online Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling Programs

What Are Online Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling Programs?

Online masters in substance abuse counseling  programs teach students to help individuals, families, and groups overcome substance abuse or dependence issues.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some states have regulation that enables substance abuse counselors to practice with only a high school degree and some specialized training. However, many states require counselors to hold, at minimum, a master’s degree.  Those interested in pursuing a graduate degree in substance abuse counseling can choose from a master’s in counseling, psychology, or social work with a focus in substance abuse, or a program that focuses entirely on substance abuse etiology and treatment. They can also choose from a master’s program or a Ph.D. in substance abuse counseling.  A small number of online substance abuse counseling programs cater to self-motivated students who require a flexible study schedule and no commute. 

If you’re considering pursuing a masters degree in substance abuse counseling, the following traits should ideally describe you:

  • Strongly motivated to help others
  • Not judgmental
  • Thick-skinned
  • Hard worker
  • Empathic
  • Focused more on the emotional rewards of a job than the pay

Online Substance Abuse Counseling Master's Degree Program Coursework

Online master's degree programs in substance abuse counseling may offer a broad-based counseling curriculum with an option to focus on substance abuse issues, or they may be targeted specifically to working with

individuals with substance abuse and dependence. General counseling courses at these graduate programs might include:

  • Introduction to Counseling
  • Counseling and Psychology Theories
  • Counseling and Psychology Practice
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Mental Health Policy
  • Diversity and counseling

Courses addressing substance abuse and addiction might include:

  • Human development and addiction
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Addiction theory
  • Addiction and family therapy
  • Addiction and group therapy

Substance Abuse Counseling Internships

Both online masters and doctoral programs in substance abuse counseling usually require students to complete a supervised internship or practicum. Internships and practicums are a way for students to apply theory and classroom learning to hands-on practice with the population with whom they anticipate working.  

As an intern, substance abuse counseling graduate students are usually supervised by a licensed counselor with significant work experience.  Internships may be a great way for students to enhance their understanding of the practical application of their studies by learning the “tricks of the trade” from a person with many years of experience.  Internships might also provide students with opportunities to network and make connections that might help them during the job search process, and help link them to other helping professionals that may be able to enhance their ability to serve their clients.

Online Substance Abuse Counseling Master's Degree Program Admissions Requirements

Online substance abuse counseling graduate programs generally require applicants to submit a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and an application fee. Most, but not all, require standardized test scores. In addition, admissions departments like to see some experience in the helping fields, whether it’s paid work experience or volunteer work. Undergraduate courses in psychology and sociology can also help enhance a resume, as well as providing the applicant with a sense of whether this is the right fit!

There are accrediting bodies for each of the mental health disciplines – psychology, social work and counseling. Most states offer some form of licensure for each discipline, and if you plan to pursue your license, it’s important to attend a school that has been accredited.

Potential Career Opportunities for Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance abuse counselors may do individual, group, or family counseling. They may work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Inpatient units
  • Detox units
  • Community health clinics
  • Non-profits
  • Private practice
  • Hospitals

Substance abuse counselors holding a Ph.D. may be qualified to teach or conduct research at colleges or universities.


Find Schools