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Substance Abuse Counselor


Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance Abuse counseling is a growing field that requires specialized knowledge in the areas of substance abuse and counseling theories. This course will provide an introductory foundation to all aspects of drug and alcohol counseling. Students will receive a comprehensive overview of the different substances and the etiology of substance abuse. In addition, students will learn about assessment and diagnosis, treatment settings and strategies, sobriety and relapse prevention, and general substance abuse prevention education and strategies. This course will also examine issues related to working with special populations and diverse cultures. Using a variety of instructional activities, this course will help prepare students to work with individuals and families in need of substance abuse treatment and counseling. This course will provide an initial educational foundation for students preparing to take state licensing or certification exams. However, since the requirements for each state differ, students will have to conduct their own research to determine state-specific certification requirements. Depending on the state requirements, the student may need to complete additional coursework or additional licensing requirements (e.g. externship or other work experience) beyond the completion of this course.



Access Length

12 Months




Course Overview

In this course, students will gain fundamental knowledge about substance abuse and addiction. As one navigated through the course, they will gain a comprehensive understanding of what substance abuse is as well as various approaches that one can use to help their client and/or their patients recover. As the core of each lesson is a review of the ethical impact of proper diagnosis, theory application, and treatment regimens that can be used to aid in the difficult battles people they assist may face. Finally, students will gain knowledge as to how different types of support systems and lifestyles can be applied to help those they assist lead productive lives well into the future.

Students will:
  • Comprehend the nature and concept of substance abuse and addiction and how they are impacting societies today
  • Review and learn the physiological and psychological aspects of substance abuse and addiction
  • Examine, compare, and contrast theoretical approaches to diagnosing substance abuse and addiction cases clients or patients may have
  • Gain insight on relapses and why it is important to support their clients or patients so that it does not occur while in a treatment regimen
  • Describe different types of therapies that can be deployed to ais in the road of recovery for substance abuse and addiction clients or patients they assist
  • Understand different types of lifestyles or alternate treatment methods which aid in the recovery process

Curriculum Developer Biography:

Willow Nolland is an expert in education and eLearning, with more than ten years of experience in curriculum development and instructional design. She has worked in higher education for over twelve years, and has developed numerous courses and has been involved in curriculum development across disciplines. She has experience with academic program development and coordination, curriculum development, student learning outcomes, educational partnerships, and student development. In addition, she has developed and administered professional development programs for various groups, including teachers, counselors, healthcare workers and members of private industry. She is a certified Quality Matters Reviewer and has taken graduate courses in online course development. She designs and teaches online courses at the college level and is proficient in a variety of course management systems. She has helped educators redesign their courses to transition them from a face-to-face format to an online format, and has provided course editing assistance to others. As a freelance instructional designer and curriculum developer, her projects have included course editing and redesign of online continuing education courses for nurses, CEU curriculum development for healthcare workers and teachers, and course review and editing for various colleges and universities.

Course Outline:

Lesson 1: Fundamentals of Substance Abuse and Addiction

The first lesson of the course will provide students an opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding of what substance abuse and addiction are. Within this lesson additionally, one will gain an understanding of the scope of substance and addiction abuse, the models of addiction, and common ethical and legal issues that may arise. Conclusively, this lesson provides the foundational knowledge needed to understand fully what substance abuse and addiction encompass.

Lesson 2: Classifying, Assessing, and Treatment Planning of Substance Abuse and Addiction

In this lesson of the course, students will gain knowledge of the physiological and psychological aspects that relate to substance abuse and addiction. Most people unfamiliar with situations patients go through often assume that it is inherited from past generations when that is not often the case. As seen in the text, this is likely not the main driver of these behaviors. Students will also learn the substance classifications and dangers of different types of addictions that are often seen. Finally, a look at the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning skills needed to assist clients or patients concludes this lesson.

Lesson 3: Substance Abuse and Addiction Basic Treatment Regimens

Once assessments have taken place proper diagnoses and treatment plans are the next steps in the process to help substance abuse and/or addition clients or patients. This lesson will guide students in learning theoretical approaches to diagnose clients or patients correctly as well as two core approaches to gaining information from them: Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Cognitive-Based Therapy (CBT). Both of these methods will be compared and contrasted as these are the most common tools to gain information to help others begin the road to recovery.

Lesson 4: Substance Abuse and Addiction Relapse Prevention

Once a treatment plan has been mapped out for a client or patient, the next steps are often the most difficult. Keeping them on task and on the road of recovery may be a difficult task for them to maintain. Hence, one of the worst things that can happen is a relapse. The fourth lesson of the course focuses on relapse and providing a proper definition of what it is and how it can be limited or stopped. The strengths and limitations of relapses are also reviewed as well as the ethical concerns that may come about when trying to keep one on the road to recovery.

Lesson 5: Application of Group and Family Systems to Substance Abuse and Addiction

Staying on the road of recovery can be a daunting task for anyone that is wanting to improve their life as well as potentially the others around them. This lesson focuses on support structures that one should have in place as part of a treatment regimen. This includes the use of group therapy and support systems (e.g. family). A comprehensive review of inpatient and outpatient options will be provided as well as the application of using family support structures to keep momentum positive not just for the client or patient but others that are indirectly involved in their lives.

Lesson 6: Solution-Focused Therapy Strategies

The sixth lesson of the course provides knowledge for students as to how to define and apply solution-focused therapies to persons suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Within this lesson, one will learn about criteria for effective outcomes, techniques that can be used, and the strengths, limitations, and ethical considerations that are seen using this method.

Lesson 7: Other Therapy Strategies for Treatment of Substance Abuse and Addiction

The final lesson of the course focuses on three (3) unique therapy options that are specific to persons suffering from substance abuse and addiction. These include the applications of Alderian, Gestalt, and Existential therapy regimens. Each one of these applies to the lifestyle and the habits a person with substance abuse or addiction may have to change in order to recover properly. Students will comprehensively learn what these are individually and how to best apply them to an ongoing treatment plan.

All necessary course materials are included.

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