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ASU launches new online master's degree to fight addiction

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

Glass of wine.

The Arizona State University Department of Psychology is launching a new Online Master of Science in Addiction Psychology program.

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. 

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.


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