ASU launches new online master's degree to fight addiction

New program in the Department of Psychology offers hands-on practicum experience

May 10, 2022

People all over the world have been under immense strain in recent years, with global pandemics and uncontrollable events, such as war and economic unrest. As a result, drugs and alcohol have been increasingly used to help cope with this stress. While they may bring short-term relief, the long-term consequences can be dire. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there were 62 million people aged 12 or older that binged alcohol in 2020, and 18 million people were classified as "heavy alcohol users," with five or more binge alcohol days in the past 30 days. Additionally, over 59 million people reported using illicit drugs in 2020, including hallucinogens, marijuana, cocaine or opioids.  Glass of wine. The Arizona State University Department of Psychology is launching a new Online Master of Science in Addiction Psychology program. Download Full Image

To better answer the call for more addiction counselors, the Arizona State University Department of Psychology is launching a new Online Master of Science in Addiction Psychology program. Unlike other online programs, this program includes an in-person practicum experience, which is completed wherever the student lives, and prepares students to use evidence-based treatment strategies. 

“We just don’t have enough providers to meet the demand for the number of people who are struggling with addiction,” said Matthew Meier, associate director of the ASU Clinical Psychology Center and co-director of clinical training for the clinical psychology PhD program. “We are launching this program to train students how to provide evidence-based addiction treatment so that they can make a difference for people needing help overcoming addiction. The program provides the educational and practicum experience needed to pursue licensure as an addiction counselor."

Meier also heads up the graduate certificate in addictions and the master’s degree in addiction psychology programs. His experience in the clinical environment provides students with real-world scenarios, along with training on the most up-to-date science research.  

MORE: Professor Foster Olive speaks with state legislators about the opioid epidemic

“The great thing about the practicum experience is that it is on-the-job training where students can take what they've learned from the books and manuals in class and go out and apply it under the supervision of a licensed addiction counselor. Students begin helping others while they are still completing their training, allowing them to more quickly make a difference,” Meier said. 

“It is so important to have the practicum experience as part of the program because it improves students’ training and is also a necessary requirement for becoming licensed after they've completed their degree.”

The practicum course has two components: working in an addiction treatment program under the supervision of a licensed addiction counselor, and a weekly online class with other students. In both circumstances, students are taught and guided by a licensed addiction counselor or licensed psychologist leading the practicum and training.

The disease of addiction

Addiction is an incredibly stressful and alienating experience. Families are often broken from it, and individuals can feel personal shame while battling addiction. While there are proven treatment strategies, many people either feel like they don’t have access to those treatments or they may not feel like they need treatment. According to SAMHSA, of the 43 million people diagnosed with a substance use disorder over the past year, less than 10% sought any type of treatment.

“From a treatment perspective, addiction is a disease – there is a predictable, developmental progression of the illness, with identifiable symptoms, and there are treatments that alleviate those specific problems,” Meier said. “Our program not only provides our students with a comprehensive understanding of the psychology of addiction, it also trains students to treat addiction so that they can make a real difference on the ground, in their communities.”

Courses in the program will teach students everything from assessment and diagnosis to evidence-based intervention strategies, multicultural issues related to addiction, and ethics in addiction treatment.

The Master of Science in addiction psychology provides the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to pursue state licensure and become an addiction counselor. The program pairs leading-edge science research from internationally recognized experts in addictions with clinical expertise from licensed psychologists and licensed addiction counselors with decades of experience providing addiction treatment.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


Glendale Community College student shares her experience transferring to ASU

May 10, 2022

As an only child and a first-generation college student, Lianyue (Leia) Zhang decided to pursue higher education as a path toward better career opportunities and a more prosperous future. Originally from China, Zhang decided to first attend Glendale Community College directly upon completing high school because of the affordable tuition and the ability to focus on her studies as a full-time student.

Signing up for MAPP MyPath2ASU further helped guide Zhang through the transfer process to Arizona State University, ensuring she took the right courses at the right time. Portrait of ASU student Lianyue (Leia) Zhang. Download Full Image

“It had a huge impact on me, where at first I felt lost to being completely clear about what I needed to take and the path I need to pursue," she said. "It doesn’t just give you each specific course you have to take in order to finish a degree, but also the order of courses to take on which to build a foundation on. Most importantly, you can see how the intersection of each major or minor or even certificate that is provided by each college will give you the benefit to accelerate your progress.”

Upon completing her general education requirements, Zhang decided to pursue a double major at ASU, studying both economics in the W. P. Carey School of Business and mathematics (statistics) in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences because of the university’s rankings and outstanding academics.

“With hundreds of degrees offered and innovative, dual-degree and double-major options, I was able to customize my education," she said. "I thought Arizona State University had the perfect blend of quality academics, research opportunities, diversity, an ideal climate and recognition. All of these qualities together can make a huge difference in a student’s career. ASU was the best for me in terms of academics and financial opportunities for building my future post-college life.”

In addition, Zhang has earned a certificate in political economy, and will be graduating in the spring 2022 semester. Here, Zhang shares more about her journey to ASU and the advice she has for future transfer students.

Question: Why (and when) did you choose your major?

Answer: Doing math is really not just the simple pleasure of "I do problems faster than others do." The pleasure of proficiency in the known field is far less than the pleasure of exploring the unknown. Of course, because exploration is an unknown world, there are risks, challenges, setbacks and failures. No one can guarantee that you will gain as much energy as you put in. Some people like adventure and some people prefer to live a regular and predictable life, which varies from person to person.

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your ASU experience so far?

A: What I have noticed while attending the ASU campus is how diverse this college is. I learned that this is the university that can take you to the place where you dreamed of being. Not only are there tons of resources to help you in a variety of ways, but you could also explore the many options, such as if you need counseling services, tutoring, clubs, or if you want to attend a job fair. I was surprised at how many different ways they had for students to get involved, and that really stood out for me. Instead of just being one student of thousands at the university, they really make it a point to go one-on-one and help you as a person.

Q: Are you involved in any clubs, organizations, research or internships?

A: Yes, I had been officially selected to be the 2021–2022 vice president of finance of Ascend at ASU. I was also the recipient of the Boggess Family Foundation Scholarship in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences in April 2021.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a new transfer student?

A: I would say go for it! Generally speaking, it is the joy of thinking. But any subject requires thinking, such as why do you like that major more than others? It may be because of the high intensity, or the high degree of freedom in mathematics that has enabled me to learn and analyze and derive pleasure from.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate with your bachelor's degree?

A: I will either stay here or go explore the big world, depending on where my career takes me. And probably in a year or so, I will apply back to ASU for my master’s degree.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

A: I normally spend time with my family and friends together. But in the sense of math, when the night comes, learning mathematics feels the same as appreciating a piece of art; solving difficult math problems is like building a rare wonder in the world. All that is needed is books, pens and paper, which can be done anytime, anywhere.

Melanie Pshaenich

Coordinator senior, Office of the University Provost, Academic Alliances