Counselors Can Help Address the Many Facets of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and addiction is an issue that affects nearly 12% of the US population directly, with over 21 million adults battling substance use disorders each year according to American Addiction Centers. That figure doesn’t account for family members and friends of addicts that are indirectly affected. Counseling Psychology Master’s student, and NAADAC fellow, Elizabeth Kidd, put it well: “When you are counseling someone with an addiction, you are also touching the lives of their friends, family members, and community. Addiction harms not only the person who is struggling, but also the people who surround them.”

Heroin use is at an all-time high, with rates of use tripling from 2002 to 2014. According to a CBS News report, current rates of overdose deaths are at 5 times what they were in 2000. The Surgeon General recently released its first ever report on alcohol, drugs, and health, titled “Facing Addiction in America.” Amongst the report’s key findings are figures representing the financial impact of addiction and substance abuse: It is estimated that the yearly economic impact of substance misuse is $249 billion for alcohol misuse and $193 billion for illicit drug use”.

These figures are scary, but with adequate funding and services, and appropriate training for medical and therapeutic professionals, it can get better. This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $53 million in funding to 44 states to help address the opioid and heroin epidemic through prevention efforts, making treatment more readily available, and multiple other support services. There is also a growing amount of funding available to students wishing to learn about and work in the field of addictions counseling. Several of our Master’s students were awarded substantial fellowships through NAADAC this year, totaling over $90,000 in scholarships awarded to students in the addictions specialization. One of those students, Riley Cochran, said this about the field: “Especially in today’s world where substances are more readily available than help, it is imperative that those interested in the field of addiction counseling make significant efforts to reduce the stigmas of addiction and make treatment more readily available.”

The projected rate of growth in employment for Substance Abuse Counselors is 22%, making it one of the fastest growing career paths in the country. This means that over the next few years there will be more jobs in the field of addictions counseling than there are professionals to fill those jobs.

Here in the Counseling Psychology program, we offer Master’s students the opportunity to pursue a specialization in addictions counseling that covers timely and practical content that prepares students for jobs in the addictions counseling field. For students who wish to work in the state of Colorado, the specialization provides the coursework required for certification as a Colorado Addiction Counselor II (CAC II), making students especially qualified and hireable in a wide variety of mental health and school settings. Our program has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Office of Behavioral Health, making the application process for certification simple and straight-forward. According to Master’s student and NAADAC fellow, Demi Folds, “This program enables me to take what is discussed in class and apply it to my work with clients almost immediately.” If you feel passionate about helping people, especially those suffering from substance abuse disorders, a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in addictions counseling might be for you. Check out our website for more information on the program.

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