What Is a Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling Degree?
Addiction is a disorder that tears apart families, ruins lives and adversely affects whole communities. As an aspiring substance abuse counselor, you can help make a difference. Enroll in Grand Canyon University’s Bachelor of Science in Counseling with an Emphasis in Addiction, Chemical Dependency and Substance Abuse. Offered by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, this addiction counseling degree offers students the opportunity to serve individuals, families and communities with competence and compassion.
Students studying to become substance abuse counselors will be taught the background factors of addiction and substance abuse. Applying a strength-based perspective will help students approach the whole person and family. Physical, emotional and mental aspects of addiction are primary strengths and avenues to healing for the individual and family. Students will be exposed to the Christian worldview and key concepts in spirituality to understanding and treating addiction.
What You’ll Be Taught in a BS in Addiction Counseling Program
The bachelor's degree in substance abuse and addiction counseling at GCU is an accredited program that provides students with an academic foundation in the counseling field. The degree requires a total of 120 credits for completion. Online classes are available to help meet the needs of a diverse student body.
Students can benefit from learning a blend of theoretical knowledge and applied skills, including hands-on learning experiences. Some of the courses included with this type of substance abuse counseling degree include the following:
- Foundations of Addiction and Substance Use
- Psychopharmacology in Treatment of Addiction and Substance Use Disorders
- Multicultural Counseling in a Diverse Society
- Relapse Prevention in the Treatment of Addiction and Substance Use Disorder
- Trauma, Addiction and Substance Use Disorders
Students will be taught the necessary skills in screening, intake, assessment, treatment planning and case management. They will explore special issues in substance abuse counseling, including considerations when working with children and adolescents, encouraging family involvement in the treatment process and working with clients with co-occurring disorders like anxiety.
The role of spirituality in substance abuse counseling is emphasized. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to gain foundational knowledge in matters pertaining to legal standards, professional guidelines and ethical issues.
Careers With A Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling Degree
Earning your bachelor's in addiction counseling degree is the first step toward pursuing a career in substance abuse counseling. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance use has shown a small decline in the United States since the pandemic, particularly among students in grades 8 through 12. In 2019, 14.8% of eighth-graders had used an illicit drug within the past year. In 2022, an estimated 11% of eighth-graders had used an illicit drug within the past year.1
The need for substance abuse counselors is expected to grow as people continue to seek addiction and mental health counseling services.2 The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors to increase by approximately 22% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than average, accounting for the addition of an estimated 77,500 jobs in the field.3
Substance abuse counselors can work in a variety of settings, including:
- Private practices
- Mental health clinics
- Rehabilitation facilities
Some jobs may require professional licensure or certification. The bachelor's degree in substance abuse and addiction counseling at GCU may qualify you to become eligible to pursue professional credentials, such as the Licensed Substance Abuse Technician (LSAT). It may also provide a foundation for enrollment in a graduate degree program in substance abuse counseling. This graduate program can also lead to a pathway to licensure.
Frequently Asked Questions About Addiction Counseling
1 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022, December 15). Most Reported Substance Use Among Adolescents Held Steady in 2022. Retrieved on July 6, 2023.
2 U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022, October 24). Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors Job Outlook. Retrieved on July 6, 2023.
3 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2022, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors, retrieved on June 26, 2023.
4 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors as of May 2021, retrieved on June 26, 2023. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may also impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the BLS. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers from across the country with varying levels of education and experience and does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors. It does not reflect earnings of workers in one city or region of the country. It also does not reflect a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. You may also wish to compare median salaries if you are considering more than one career path. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, and accept employment from, determines salary not only based on education, but also individual characteristics and skills and fit to that organization (among other categories) against a pool of candidates.
General Education Requirements
General Education coursework prepares Grand Canyon University graduates to think critically, communicate clearly, live responsibly in a diverse world, and thoughtfully integrate their faith and ethical convictions into all dimensions of life. These competencies, essential to an effective and satisfying life, are outlined in the General Education Learner Outcomes. General Education courses embody the breadth of human understanding and creativity contained in the liberal arts and sciences tradition. Students take an array of foundational knowledge courses that promote expanded knowledge, insight, and the outcomes identified in the University's General Education Competencies. The knowledge and skills students acquire through these courses serve as a foundation for successful careers and lifelong journeys of growing understanding and wisdom.
Upon completion of the Grand Canyon University's University Foundation experience, students will be able to demonstrate competency in the areas of academic skills and self-leadership. They will be able to articulate the range of resources available to assist them, explore career options related to their area of study, and have knowledge of Grand Canyon's community. Students will be able to demonstrate foundational academic success skills, explore GCU resources (CLA, Library, Career Center, ADA office, etc), articulate strategies of self-leadership and management and recognize opportunities to engage in the GCU community.
- UNV-112, Success in Science, Engineering and Technology & Lab: 4
- UNV-103, University Success: 4
- UNV-303, University Success: 4
- UNV-108, University Success in the College of Education: 4
Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to construct rhetorically effective communications appropriate to diverse audiences, purposes, and occasions (English composition, communication, critical reading, foreign language, sign language, etc.). Students are required to take 3 credits of English grammar or composition.
- UNV-104, 21st Century Skills: Communication and Information Literacy: 4
- ENG-105, English Composition I: 4
- ENG-106, English Composition II: 4
Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to express aspects of Christian heritage and worldview. Students are required to take CWV-101/CWV-301.
- CWV-101, Christian Worldview: 4
- CWV-301, Christian Worldview: 4
Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to use various analytic and problem-solving skills to examine, evaluate, and/or challenge ideas and arguments (mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy, physical geography, ecology, economics, theology, logic, philosophy, technology, statistics, accounting, etc.). Students are required to take 3 credits of intermediate algebra or higher.
- MAT-154, Applications of College Algebra: 4
- MAT-144, College Mathematics: 4
- PHI-105, 21st Century Skills: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: 4
- BIO-220, Environmental Science: 4
Graduates of Grand Canyon University will be able to demonstrate awareness and appreciation of and empathy for differences in arts and culture, values, experiences, historical perspectives, and other aspects of life (psychology, sociology, government, Christian studies, Bible, geography, anthropology, economics, political science, child and family studies, law, ethics, cross-cultural studies, history, art, music, dance, theater, applied arts, literature, health, etc.). If the predefined course is a part of the major, students need to take an additional course.
- HIS-144, U.S. History Themes: 4
- PSY-102, General Psychology: 4
- SOC-100, Everyday Sociology: 4
* Please note that this list may contain programs and courses not presently offered, as availability may vary depending on class size, enrollment and other contributing factors. If you are interested in a program or course listed herein please first contact your University Counselor for the most current information regarding availability.
* Please refer to the Academic Catalog for more information. Programs or courses subject to change.