Substance Abuse Counseling: What You Can Learn in a MAC Program

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Counselor speaking with pensive client.

As the nation struggles to confront an ongoing opioid crisis, the value of clinical mental health counseling — and substance abuse counselors specifically — grows each day. While substance abuse is nothing new, the current situation in countless American communities further emphasizes the importance of qualified mental health counselors.

For students with counseling ambitions, earning an online Master of Arts in Counseling is one way to prepare to help individuals, families and other persons affected by substance abuse. This subspecialty within the greater scope of clinical mental health counseling requires students to build a number of skills and competencies to effectively serve clients.

Helping clients understand addiction and what they can do to help themselves or a loved one is no easy task, which is why Bradley University’s online MAC program features a robust curriculum designed to give substance abuse counselors the tools and knowledge they need to achieve positive outcomes.

Here’s more information about the online MAC courses at Bradley that can help prepare substance abuse counselors for the real world:

ENC 551 – Substance Abuse Counseling

This course serves as a basic introduction to substance abuse counseling. The practice of substance abuse counseling and the concept of addiction therapy both require a nuanced understanding. Students can receive this type of focused learning through ENC 551, where they will encounter theories and the etiology (the study of the causation of a disease) of addiction.

Addiction is an oft-misunderstood condition, and its complexities are a constant theme students are taught to address. This is done through teaching students about addictive behaviors, strategies for prevention, intervention techniques and treatment.

Faculty member presenting at counseling residencyENC  625 – Principles of Group Counseling 

Group counseling sessions are common in substance abuse therapies. Such forums are useful for many reasons, but also require specialized training on the counselor’s part. Group dynamics are wholly unlike those manifested in individual sessions, and without an ability to facilitate and guide the session, counselors may be overwhelmed.

To effectively run group sessions, students need to be trained in the principles of group theory, methods and procedures. They need to be able to take on the role of group leader and facilitate discussions, resolve conflict, manage interpersonal interactions and advocate for the best interests of the group.

There’s no better avenue for learning about and experiencing group counseling principles firsthand than experiential learning. As part of Bradley’s online MAC program, students with the proper prerequisites undergo supervised practice in group settings, both as a leader and participant. This immersive experience ensures students have concrete skills and knowledge to apply in their practice of group counseling.

ENC 631 – Crisis Intervention Counseling

Given the nature of addiction, many individuals and families may reach crisis points. It’s at these critical junctures that clinical mental health professionals with a master’s degree in counseling can provide expert help and value. However, these high-pressure situations will call upon a number of skills and competencies that counselors must learn to effectively help people in crisis.

This online counseling course provides students with an overview of crisis response, which requires a different problem-solving methodology than is applicable in “normal” situations.

Throughout this course, students are trained for the level of emotional and social difficulty involved in crisis counseling, as well as practical intervention techniques they can use with clients. Students also gain an appreciation for the greater impact crises can have on whole communities, beyond just individuals and families.

ENC 607 and 608 – Neurocounseling: Bridging Brain and Behavior; Brain-Based Interventions

A primary outcome of substance abuse counseling is empowering clients with tools and techniques to improve their lives. This can be achieved in a number of ways, and one approach that the online Bradley MAC program focuses on is brain-based interventions. Such techniques can be powerful in promoting mindfulness and mental health.

Students gain an introduction to these concepts through ENC 607 Neurocounseling: Bridging Brain and Behavior. This course addresses subjects like neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to create new cells over a person’s lifetime — and how counselors can leverage that biological process in client interactions. Students gain a better appreciation and understanding of neurocounseling through instruction, simulation, demonstration, practice and evaluation.

That knowledge is enhanced in ENC 608 Brain-Based Interventions. Students learn more about counseling efficacy and interventions like mindfulness, meditation, neurotherapy and neurofeedback through this course. Such methods can be helpful in teaching clients to use their brain in regulating emotions and behaviors to better manage substance abuse.

ENC 530 – Loss and Grief Counseling

An unfortunate reality of substance abuse counseling is that death and injury do occur. Substance abuse takes an extensive physical and mental toll on individuals, families and communities, so having the tools as a professional counselor to help those affected is of central importance.

Loss and grief are common counseling topics. Cultural beliefs, society, gender influences, blockers and other variables can affect how loss and grief are experienced, as well as which interventions might prove useful in counseling situations. This course offers students the chance to learn more about people’s reactions to loss and the different kinds of personal loss.

Contact Bradley University for more information

Earning a master’s degrees in counseling can offer professional clinical mental health counselors a wealth of opportunities to sharpen skills, learn more about their interests, practice advanced interventions, explore theory and achieve all manner of different educational enrichment. This knowledge-building is important to substance abuse counseling, which requires counselors to have a number of different competencies.

The curriculum of the Bradley online MAC program is designed to ensure students are as prepared as possible to address the realities of substance abuse counseling. By covering subjects like group dynamics, brain-based interventions and other areas, the online MAC degree gives students the tools and experience they need to successfully serve clients. To learn more about the Bradley program, contact an enrollment advisor today.


Recommended Readings

How Professional Counselors Can Help Address The Opioid Crisis

What is Neurocounseling?

Bradley University Online Master’s in Counseling