PhD in Substance Abuse Counseling

Substance abuse counseling graduate programs explore theories, techniques and strategies for treating addictions. Learn about Ph.D. coursework, degree prerequisites, employment outlook and licensing requirements. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Courses Will I Take in a Substance Abuse Counseling Ph.D. Program?

Substance abuse counseling is typically offered as a specialization within a counseling Ph.D. program. Most programs take five years to complete. Although course selection is often tailored to meet your goals, Your first four years in the program will likely consist of research, a clinical practicum and coursework covering topics like:

  • Biostatistics
  • Multivariate statistics
  • Group counseling strategies
  • Computer technology
  • Qualitative inquiry
  • Family counseling
  • Research methods
  • Evaluation theory and practice
  • Adult-child relationships
  • Advanced counseling theories

You'll also be required to complete and defend a dissertation and pass comprehensive written exams; your fifth year is often focused on clinical experience and dissertation-related research. Due to the hands-on nature of the curriculum, Ph.D. programs in substance abuse counseling are rarely available online.

Common Courses Evaluation theory, statistics, qualitative inquiry, counseling, technology
Job Outlook (2014-2014) 22%* (for all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)
Prerequisites Master's degree in rehabilitation counseling, or related field, is mandatory; some institutions may request standardized test scores, a faculty interview, and/or a personal statement
Continuing Education Licensure is mandatory for all private practice counselors; requirements vary by state

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Will I Need To Complete Any Prerequisites?

To apply for admission, you'll need to possess a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. In addition, you'll often need at least a 3.0 grade point average at the master's level, passing scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Miller Analogy Test (MAT), at least two years of professional counseling experience, a personal statement and a faculty interview.

What Careers Are Available?

Substance abuse counseling Ph.D. programs are designed to prepare you for a career as a university professor, or as a professional counselor in a rehabilitation facility, clinical counseling center or private practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed substance abuse counselors increased by 22% from 2014-2024 ( During the same decade, overall employment of university professors is expected to grow by 13%.

Will I Need To Be Licensed or Certified?

Licensing requirements vary by state, but is required for all private practice counselors. You'll need to check with your state to find requirements for your area. Certification is available on a voluntary basis from The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. This certification requires graduation from an accredited program, completion of an internship and a written examination. You'll need to maintain this certification by retaking the written exam or completing 100 credit hours of continuing education every five years.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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