BS in Behavioral Health Science: Substance Use Disorders Emphasis

Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Substance Use Disorders

Offered By: College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Study How Behavioral Health Issues Can Contribute to Substance Use Disorders

Grand Canyon University's Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Substance Use Disorders introduces you to behavioral health, substance abuse and addiction. In the U.S., half of all people ages 12 and older have used illicit substances at least once in their lifetime, and over 25% of them have a substance use disorder.1 Substance abuse counseling services are intended to help these individuals recover from substance use.

This program’s curriculum can offer a strong foundation for those who want to go on to pursue a master’s degree in counseling, mental health, criminal justice, clinical or forensic psychology or social work.

Benefits of GCU's Substance Use Disorders Emphasis

The substance abuse courses are designed to emphasize GCU’s five critical competencies: effective communication, innovative thinking, Christian worldview, transformative leadership and global contribution. Additionally, this emphasis in substance use disorders covers these core domains:

  • Concepts of behavioral health
  • Behavioral health skills
  • Cultural competency
  • Behavioral health information technology
  • Professional network
Get More Information

Loading Form

This bachelor’s program teaches you about the foundations of substance abuse and its effects on individuals and communities. You will have the opportunity to practice rapport-building and interviewing skills, identify various assessment tools and implement documentation strategies for treatment plans. You will also examine ethical codes and organizational policies.

With online courses at GCU, you will have the opportunity to further your education from virtually anywhere. You can access your coursework materials via our interactive digital learning platform, which allows for virtual interactions with your fellow learners and instructors. As an online student, you can benefit from the same quality of education as GCU’s on-campus students, but with the convenience and flexibility of completing courses without geographical restrictions.

Although online education is an option available to you at GCU, you may prefer to take substance abuse courses in person. As a behavioral health science major on campus, you can enjoy face-to-face class discussions and interactions with your peers. Furthermore, you’ll be immersed within our faith-based learning environment, which encourages students to actively participate in worship activities and community service initiatives.

This bachelor’s program is also available on campus through evening classes, which offers you the benefits of classroom learning and the flexibility of taking one class at a time, one night per week.

Behavioral Health Science and Substance Use Course Topics

As a BS in Behavioral Health Science student specializing in substance use disorders, you will be exposed to a broad range of content areas, including:

  • Behavioral health, with an emphasis on the ethics, legal standards and responsibilities in the field
  • Counseling theories and techniques
  • Substance abuse disorders, including prevention, intervention and relapse prevention
  • The biopsychosocial dynamics and impact of addiction and substance abuse
  • Working with multicultural populations
  • Human development across the lifespan, including physical, cognitive and socioemotional development
  • The relationship between spirituality and addiction development and treatment
  • Report writing and researching in behavioral health
  • Understanding trauma, abuse, domestic violence and family dynamics within the context of the behavioral health field

This program also includes a capstone project that is a culmination of the program’s curricular focus, in which you will prepare a written proposal community-based behavioral health organization.

Career Paths for Graduates With a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science

Throughout the substance abuse courses in this program, you will be taught the skills that can help make a positive impact on the lives of others in the community you serve. With a firm foundation of behavioral health science and substance use disorder competencies, graduates may set themselves up to pursue a career as a:

  • Behavioral health technician, specialist or paraprofessional
  • Psychiatric or mental health technician
  • Social or community service manager
  • Case manager

A professional who understands how to address substance use may find work across a variety of settings and specializations. These may include:

  • Behavioral health
  • Health services management
  • Health services agencies
  • Governmental agencies
  • Private and public entities

In addition, you may decide to further your education and expand your career opportunities by pursuing a graduate-level degree that leads to licensure as a mental health or substance abuse counselor, or as a clinical psychologist. Licensure requirements vary by state and occupation.

Earn Your Behavioral Health Science Degree From an Institutionally Accredited University

Working with individuals who are struggling with substance use disorders is a significant responsibility. It’s important to ensure that the school and program you choose for your substance abuse courses offer quality education that can allow you to prepare to enter the field ready to make a positive difference. GCU is pleased to have institutional accreditation. Our accreditation is a reflection of the priority we place on the quality of education.

BS in Behavioral Health Science: Substance Use Disorders Emphasis FAQs

Before making any decisions regarding your future career path and higher education, it’s recommended that you take some time to research your options. The following FAQs and answers can help you get started.

Although many people may lawfully use substances like alcohol in moderation, not all of them will necessarily develop a substance use problem. Similarly, trying an illicit substance once does not necessarily give rise to a disorder in every instance. Rather, a substance use disorder is typically defined as the continued and uncontrollable use of a substance despite suffering adverse problems because of it. A person with this type of disorder will continue to use alcohol, tobacco or illicit substances even as they have difficulty functioning in their day-to-day life, and even as they begin to suffer consequences.2

The Bachelor of Science in Counseling with an Emphasis in Addiction, Chemical Dependency and Substance Abuse may qualify you to become eligible for licensure and includes fieldwork to help you put theories into practice. You will have the opportunity to directly work with those affected by substance abuse. Similarly, a BS in Behavioral Health Science that emphasizes substance abuse disorders examines counseling theories and the foundations of substance abuse. However, this degree does not lead to licensure. In this degree program, you will have the opportunity to gain competencies for a career as a behavioral health technician or other non-licensed behavioral health professions. The counseling degree is specific to counseling and addiction, while a student receiving this behavioral health science degree may have added flexibility to pursue different pathways. Those taking a behavioral health science degree might also choose to pursue a graduate degree in counseling that can lead to licensure.

A behavioral health scientist is a professional who generally focuses more on research and theory, rather than hands-on application. For example, a behavioral scientist may seek to understand why people begin using and become addicted to substances, but they might not necessarily work one-on-one with individuals in an attempt to treat substance use. This is a different profession than hands-on roles like a behavioral health technician or case manager. Generally, an aspiring behavioral scientist will need a graduate degree, such as a doctorate or at least a master’s. They may also need a certification or license, depending on their state and employer requirements.3

This particular BS in Behavioral Health Science degree requires 120 credits for completion. Most of the on-campus courses are 15 weeks in length and most of the online courses are seven weeks in length.

Prepare to make a positive impact in the lives of those struggling with substance abuse disorders. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about GCU’s behavioral health science learning community online or on campus.

1 National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. (n.d.). Drug abuse statistics. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2023.

2 American Psychiatric Association. (2020, December). What is a substance use disorder? American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2023.

3 Indeed. (2022, June 2024). What does a behavioral scientist do? Role and job duties. Indeed. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2023.

Total Credits: 120
Campus: 15 weeks
[More Info]
Online: 7 weeks
[More Info]
Up to 90 credits, only 84 can be lower division
Campus: $8,250 per semester
[Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid]

Online: $485 per credit
[Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid]

Cost of Attendance

Course List

General Education Requirements:
34-40 credits
56 credits
Open Elective Credits:
24-30 credits
Degree Requirements:
120 credits

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.

Course Options

  • 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.

Course Options

  • 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.

Course Options

  • 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.

Course Options

  • 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.

Course Options

  • HIS-144, U.S. History Themes: 4
  • PSY-102, General Psychology: 4
  • SOC-100, Everyday Sociology: 4

Core Courses

Course Description

This course provides foundational knowledge in theoretical approaches to counseling. Theoretical models studied include psychodynamic, existential, Gestalt, person-centered, cognitive and behavioral therapy, family systems, and narrative- and solution-focused therapies.

Course Description

This writing-intensive course provides a broad understanding of ethics, legal standards, and responsibilities in behavioral health. Students explore basic ethical concepts, legislation, and current trends in behavioral health ethics. This course pays special attention to technology and its effects on lawmaking and ethics in behavioral health. Important goals of this course are to help students develop a comprehensive understanding of the history and current application of ethics in the behavioral health field.

Course Description

This course provides a comprehensive foundation through exploring the content areas of cultural diversity, social justice, and religious and spiritual values. Examination of these areas strives to offer an overarching framework to guide students and gain perspectives for working with multicultural populations in the behavioral health field. This course assists students with developing knowledge and application of cultural diversity, cultural competency, and the importance of self-awareness, social justice, and advocacy. In addition, this course provides students a blended approach of the beliefs and values associated with religion and spirituality as a component of cultural competency.

Course Description

This course provides foundational knowledge regarding addiction and substance use disorders. Topics studied include biopsychosocial dynamics; stages, processes, and impact of addiction and substance use; and the role of the addiction professional in prevention, intervention, relapse prevention, and aftercare. In addition, the course provides overviews of the substance abuse counselor's code of ethics, HIPAA, and legal issues involved in counseling.

Course Description

This course provides a broad understanding of group development stages, group dynamics, group counseling theories, and ethical standards pertaining to group work. In addition, this course explores theoretical approaches to group work. The course also addresses the growth and development of group members.

Course Description

This course focuses on the legal and ethical responsibilities involved when child abuse, abuse of the elderly, and domestic or family violence has been reported. Understanding the dynamics of working with cases of family violence and domestic partner abuse are explored.

Course Description

This course provides an understanding of the nature and needs of individuals across the life-span development. This course covers physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development across various points in human development. Additionally, students learn about the influence of spiritual and moral beliefs throughout the life span.

Course Description

This is a writing intensive foundation course in the science of abnormal behavior that offers students the opportunity to study the origin and development of abnormal patterns and disorders. This course is designed to assist students in recognizing and understanding mental illness through increased awareness of emotional, functional, and physiological factors influencing mental health. Specific topics include symptoms, diagnoses, etiology, epidemiology, and treatment of various psychological disorders and syndromes.

Course Description

This course is a study of elementary theories of probability, distribution, and testing of statistical hypotheses. Practical experience is provided in the application of statistical methods. Prerequisite: MAT-134, MAT-144 or MAT-154.

Course Description

This course provides a comprehensive understanding of the various documentation styles used in the behavioral health field. Students critically examine evidence-based research in the field of behavioral health. The course offers an introduction to conducting applied clinical research.

Course Description

This course introduces the historical and theoretical perspectives of family dynamics and systems. Topics include roles, communication styles, boundaries, generational patterns, cultural influences, and couples and parenting dynamics. Skills and modalities relevant to working with families in the behavioral health field are explored.

Course Description

This course focuses on the relationship between spirituality and the development and treatment of addictions. It also covers legal, ethical, and spiritual aspects of death, dying, and end of life issues. The course addresses grief and loss as it relates to addiction, death, and dying. Prerequisites: PCN-100 and PCN-107.

Course Description

This course offers an overview of various types of trauma and effects of traumatic experiences within the physical, emotional, sociological, cognitive, and spiritual domains of a human being. It studies the dynamics of trauma throughout the human life-span development. It offers a brief overview of trauma, informed care assessment and treatment, and ethics associated with working with trauma victims.

Course Description

The capstone project is a culmination of the learning experiences while a student is within the behavioral health science program at Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Students prepare a written proposal for a community-based behavioral health organization related to the student's specific area of focus. The proposal includes the name, geographical location, identified service gap, target populations, types of service/treatments, potential challenges, ethical considerations, and supervision/oversight considerations. The professional capstone project proposal needs to reflect synthesis and integration of course content. This capstone course needs to be completed at the end of program. Prerequisite: BHS-350.


GCU Campus Student

Join Grand Canyon University’s vibrant and growing campus community, with daytime classes designed for traditional students. Immerse yourself in a full undergraduate experience, complete with curriculum designed within the context of our Christian worldview.

GCU Online Student

Pursue a next-generation education with an online degree from Grand Canyon University. Earn your degree with convenience and flexibility with online courses that let you study anytime, anywhere.

* 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.