Master of Science in Counseling, Addiction & Substance Abuse Emphasis

Addiction Counseling Job Opportunities

  • Rehabilitation Facility Administration
  • Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor
  • Outpatient Therapist
  • Telehealth Therapist
  • Intervention Counselor
  • Correctional Treatment Specialist
  • School Counselor
  • Social Services Manager

Access Rewarding, In-demand Careers With Online Master’s in Substance Abuse

Let Mid-America Christian University’s (MACU) Master of Science in Counseling with an addiction and substance abuse emphasis open the door to a career with so many possibilities. As a rewarding role available in a range of work environments—including hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, nonprofits and local advocacy organizations, courts, and police departments—substance abuse counselors impact people’s lives in a positive way and enjoy both professional autonomy and peer collaboration on the job.

Career opportunities in the field of addiction counseling are growing rapidly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to grow 23 percent from 2020 to 2030, adding about 41,000 job openings in the U.S. per year. With MACU’s accredited, affordable, and accelerated online master’s in rehabilitation counseling, you’ll be equipped not only to seek LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor) licensure in Oklahoma, but also with the training and tools you need to support people who want to address the struggle of substance abuse and to restore their lives and relationships.

Program Information

A Master’s in Addiction Counseling Designed With Busy Professionals in Mind

At Oklahoma City-based MACU, our master’s in substance abuse counseling offers busy adults many advantages. Rather than taking multiple classes simultaneously, our online master’s degree students take just one six-week class at a time in a consecutive order. Focus on one course, one professor, and one set of assignments at a time. If something unexpected comes up at work or at home, you don’t have to worry about falling behind. We’ll help you jump back into school where you left off.

Beyond core classes in counseling, coursework in this addiction and substance abuse program focuses on theory and practice of addiction in the family, pharmacology of drugs commonly abused, and advanced counseling and psychotherapy techniques.

Additional benefits of choosing MACU for a M.S. in Counseling include:

  • Small classes and a low faculty-to-student ratio
  • Christ-centered instruction
  • Consistent career networking opportunities
  • Seamless pathway to licensure in Oklahoma

Although this degree is offered completely online, select courses may be offered on campus depending on student interest and faculty availability. MACU’s program is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

Looking for an addiction and substance abuse counseling certificate? Learn more about MACU’s certificate.

As you prepare to begin your degree at MACU, our enrollment counselors are ready to assist you. Please take a look at this downloadable degree sheet, featuring an overview of MACU’s Counseling degree program. Don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing [email protected] or calling 888-888-2341 if you have any questions.

The World Needs More Christian Substance Abuse Counselors

A master’s in addiction counseling from MACU helps you grow in your own faith and in your ability to guide others through the life-changing events they face. We train substance abuse counselors to assess the psychological and behavioral needs of their clients while remaining attuned to spiritual needs, as well. A perspective grounded in the teachings of Christ is essential to not only providing compassionate care for clients, but also for growing personally and professionally as you practice.

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COUN 5113 


The ability to systematically perform differential diagnosis and establish the larger context for understanding the diagnosis is essential to the professional counselor. Using case studies, students will perform a structured protocol for performing a differential diagnosis with the current DSM disorders. The following primary skills will be developed: Recognizing criteria of abnormality to increase sensitivity to identifying relevant symptomatology, performing the structured steps of a diagnosis, recognizing co-occurring disorders to understand the range of issues needed for treatment planning, performing a differential diagnosis to distinguish the correct diagnosis from similar conditions, identifying the influence of medical conditions on symptomatology, predicting the impact of crisis and trauma on symptomology and functioning to further quality treatment planning, and systematically appropriately ruling out malingering, factitious disorder, adjustment disorders, and substance etiology to finalize a correct diagnosis.

COUN 5123 

Career Counseling and Development 

The cornerstone of career counseling is recognizing that it touches all aspects of human life, for it involves political, economic, educational, philosophical, and social progress and change along with understanding the whole person as a member of complex social systems. The specialized content of career counseling includes initial career choice, the connection between career and personal problems, adaptations to changes in the workplace, multiple career dilemmas, and maintenance of a balanced lifestyle. The interactions of career, life, and gender roles in marriages, couples, and families will be an important focus of this course. Students will develop a comprehensive approach for skillfully performing career counseling that also incorporates personal concerns by examining and applying career assessment theory, performing major theories of career counseling and decision-making, integrating career assessment information and major types of resource information, and employing research on trends in the world of work.

COUN 5213 

Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy 

The foundation of counseling knowledge is the in-depth understanding of established theories of counseling. Students will perform a comprehensive study of the prominent theories of counseling and psychotherapy, issues related to their application involving diversity, the roles of spirituality and wellness as it relates to mental health and addiction clients, and how to practically apply the theories based on individual issues and needs. The study of the theories includes personality theories, theories of motivation, theories of change, and ways to analyze case studies to make high quality clinical decisions for treatment. Students will experience a special focus on theoretical reasoning in both explaining the theories and fully elucidating case examples in order to develop an integrated foundation upon which the more detailed study of the counseling field will build.

COUN 5313 

Individual Counsel & Psychotherapy Techniques

The crucial skills and strategies of counseling and psychotherapy establish a basic structure applicable to many different theories that counselors can employ and integrate into their own natural style of helping. Students will study and apply the multi-culturally sensitive micro-skills approach to provide the critical background for competence in listening, influencing, and structuring an effective counseling session with individuals, families, couples, and marriages. Through practice sessions, students will master a basic structure for the session applicable to many different theories including developing an empathic relationship and working alliance with the client, drawing out the client’s story with special attention to strengths and resources, setting clear goals with the client, enabling the client to restructure and think differently about concerns, issues, and challenges, and helping the client move to action outside the session. Students will acquire skills for identifying and addressing common issues in working with clients’ spiritual/religious issues to promote optimal functioning to increase meaning and purpose in life. Strength and character assessment and feedback will be employed to promote counselor dispositions in performing the counseling process.

COUN 5513 

Marriage and Family Systems and Treatment 

Family therapy has a revolutionary emphasis on systems thinking and the search for identifiable and recurrent family patterns to be explored in this course. Students will examine the history and development of marriage, couple and family counseling including foundational theories and principles of family development, the contemporary family, family subsystems, individual and interpersonal relationships, and grasping the influence of larger systems – race, social class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation – on the functioning of the family and its individual members. Students will utilize systemic theories to describe problems and structure solutions by acquiring knowledge of the models of marital and family counseling. Students will examine the fundamentals of the family including adopting a family relationship framework, family development, diversity in family functioning, systems theory and systemic thinking, and the development and practice of family therapy. The range of theories examined includes: Psychodynamic models, transgenerational models, experiential models, the structural model, the strategic models, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral models, social construction models, and population-based family treatments.

COUN 5713 

Human Development 

The foundations of biological, neurological, and physiological factors along with systemic and environmental factors affecting human development, functioning, and behavior is the primary focus of this course. Ethical and culturally relevant strategies for promoting resilience and optimum development and wellness across the lifespan will be included. Students will explore theoretical and research approaches in the study of the development of human abilities and behavior throughout the lifespan – childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Topics include developmental research methodology, variables influencing development, and basic developmental processes in physical, motor, perceptual, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social, and personality development. Applications of developmental theory to counseling are emphasized

COUN 5913 

Research Methods 

Highly qualified counselors comprehend research and the scientific method behind the conclusions presented. Students will compose a well-written research presentation demonstrating an experimental design for a study by constructing a hypothesis clearly delineating dependent and independent variables and explaining the framework for performing the study. The research project will include the significance, the potential impact on mental health research based on a comprehensive review of the literature, and an appropriate research design. The nature and design of experimental, observational, quasi-experimental, survey, and correlational studies will be examined related to behavioral observation. Students will assess the quality of research studies to include proper design, correct utilization of descriptive and inferential statistics, accurate analysis of the research data, and the appropriateness of the conclusions drawn from the data.

COUN 6133 

Multicultural Counseling and Treatment Planning for Individuals and Families 

Providing professional counselors with multicultural counseling theory and practices for culturally competent interventions within the broad range of important areas of cultural diversity along with the in-depth study of factors resulting in diagnostic symptomatology is a major focus of this course. The scope of cultural diversity includes race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic disadvantage, and military service correlated with how they impact diagnostic interviewing, assessment methods, treatment planning, and the counseling relationship. Significantly enhancing diagnostic interviewing and assessment skills, students will extensively explore the etiology and underlying dynamics of the range of the current DSM diagnosis, design appropriate evidence-based treatment plans, and develop strategies for modifying treatment plans and processes related to cultural diversity.

COUN 6233 

Ethics and Professional Studies

The detailed study of the legal and ethical codes for professional licensure establishes a framework for ethical decision-making essential to quality practice. The major focus of study is the American Counseling Association’s ACA Code of Ethics along with investigation of other professional ethical codes. Case studies presenting common dilemmas and conflicts are extensively analyzed to identify potential risks and areas of concern, to recognize the ethical standards involved, and to understand essential principles for preventing ethical violations or properly resolving ethical issues. Students will examine the theoretical and philosophical issues fundamental to fully comprehending the codes. Major themes of study include the following: Professional socialization/relationships, the role of the professional organization, confidentiality and privacy, proper assessment and interpretation of data, supervision and training, distance counseling, technology and social media, the legal responsibilities and liabilities involving record keeping, third party reimbursement and other considerations pertaining to independent practice and interprofessional cooperation, ethics, and family law. Students will learn advocacy processes for addressing institution and social barriers that impede equity and success for clients.

COUN 6433 

Assessment of Individuals/Families in Counseling 

Mental health assessment provides the counselor with information for performing correct diagnoses, developing treatment plans, uncovering the dynamics underlying psychopathology as part of the total assessment of individuals and families. Students will acquire assessment interviewing skills to include biopsychosocial assessment to increase competence in making and explaining diagnoses with assessments relevant to individual counselors as well as marriage, couple and family counselors. Students will analyze case studies to develop skills for determining the appropriateness of performing assessment, selecting types of assessment instruments and writing mental health reports. Students will administer and interpret a personality inventory and learn the purpose, basics of interpretation, and rules of administration of various assessment instruments including: Intelligence tests, personality instruments, projective tests, neuropsychological tests, and disorder specific tests.

COUN 6533 

Interventions for Individuals and Families in Crisis and Trauma 

Competent professional counselors need to use methods for the practical application of research for professional development in the wider range of human issues and psychopathology. By discovering and providing research-supported information regarding a range of problems, students will become proficient in developing quality treatment plans and skilled interventions to increase the coping and resilience of individuals and families confronted with crises and trauma. The range of problem situations and psychopathological issues include: Issues impacting marriages (financial, work, dual-careers, in-laws, affairs, partner in prison, disasters, abortion); Children in the family (having children, child rearing practices, living together); singleness, separation, divorce, second marriages and beyond, blended families, step-parenting, ex-spouse, being a custodial parent, losing custody, family violence and spousal abuse (physical and sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect), addictions and substance abuse, chronic illness, hospitalizations, dying partner, effect of partner death, effect of a child’s death, gay and lesbian relationships, impact of mental illness, suicide and para-suicidal behavior, homicidally, bullying, adolescent acting out behavior, sexuality and issues of desire, sexual dysfunction, impact of unemployment and under-employment, impact of changes in the socioeconomic standing of the family.

COUN 6833 

Group Dynamics and Counseling 

Applying the various theoretical models to group counseling and analyzing group dynamics in a therapeutic setting is important for the professional counselor. Students will extensively study the basic elements of group process, deal with ethical and professional issues special to group work, and determine how to apply key concepts and techniques of approaches to group counseling. Students will participate in an applied lab activity to experience the group process to acquire skills in group psychotherapy methods and demonstrate effective facilitation of a counseling group. Methods for receiving referrals, adapting groups to various settings, assessing appropriate membership, and preparing participants for receiving appropriate benefits from the group process will be presented.

COUN 6973 


Supervised clinical experience and practice in counseling fieldwork in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Addictions and Substance Abuse Counseling, or Martial, Couples, and Family Therapy (depending on the student’s degree emphasis) as approved by the School Chair. The supervised experience hours align with the State of Oklahoma licensure preparation requirements. Students seeking licensure in any other state are responsible for contacting their state licensing board to verify that this practicum course at MACU will meet its educational licensure requirements. Students are expected to complete a minimum of 100 hours at a rate of 10 per week over ten weeks.

COUN 6983 


Advanced supervised clinical experience and practice in counseling fieldwork in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Addictions and Substance Abuse Counseling, or Martial, Couples, and Family Therapy (depending on the student’s degree emphasis) as approved by the School Chair. The supervised experience hours align with the State of Oklahoma licensure preparation requirements. Students seeking licensure in any other state are responsible for contacting their state licensing board to verify that this internship course at MACU will meet its educational licensure requirements. The internship would total the minimum number of supervised hours required by the state where the license is sought.

COUN 5233

Alcohol and Drug Addiction

The foundation of the study of addiction counseling requires the understanding of human behavior and how it applies to addiction and elements of substance abuse. This course presents a comprehensive framework of the history and development of addiction. Students will identify factors impacting addiction, including socialization, which increases the likelihood of a person, community, or group to be at risk for or resilient to psychoactive substance use disorders. The evolution of the roles and settings of the addiction counselor, along with the ethical and legal issues involved in addiction and substance abuse counseling, will be considered.

COUN 5333

Addiction in the Family & Assessment Theory

Counselors, working with individuals and families involving addiction, require a comprehensive understanding of theories of addiction, assessment and diagnosis, treatment setting and planning, and the etiological theories of substance abuse. Students will study the major theories and methods currently employed in the assessment and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. An emphasis is placed on the evaluation of substance abuse patterns and the assessment of various treatment alternatives. The social aspects of family risks and resiliencies will be extensively studied incorporating racial, ethnic, and cultural issues. Foundations for culturally and developmentally relevant education programs that raise awareness, support addiction and substance abuse prevention, and enhance the recovery process will be developed incorporating gender and sexual orientation differences, mutual-help groups, and public policy. Students will learn to develop treatment plans using the procedures a counselor or program practices to identify and evaluate individuals’ strengths, weaknesses, and problems, spiritual and other biopsychosocial factors and needs.

COUN 5433

Addiction in the Family Counseling

A major focus of this course is for students to learn to skillfully perform addiction and substance abuse counseling including the adaptation of individual, group, marital, and family treatment techniques. An emphasis will be given to the acquisition of the competencies for students to apply strength-based therapeutic strategies and interventions incorporating an understanding of biology and addiction across the life span with the treatment of eating disorders, gambling, shopping, sex, other behavioral addictions, and co-occurring mental disorders or disabilities. Additionally, strategies for prevention, retaining sobriety, and relapse prevention of addiction and substance abuse will be acquired for working with individuals and families. Students will study processes for addressing the treatment issues and characteristics of diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural populations as well as the social aspects of addiction which includes: Family risks and resiliencies, gender distinctions, and sexual orientation differences.

COUN 5533

Pharmacology of Drugs of Abuse

The counselor who treats addiction and substance requires a strong foundational knowledge of the nature of drugs of abuse and their impact. This course focuses on basic behavioral pharmacology; the behavioral analysis of drug effects; tolerance and conditioning of drug effects; the nervous system and neurological functioning as it relates to psychological disorders, the effects of medications and other substances on the individual’s cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral functioning; and characteristics of dependence and addiction. Students will examine the pharmacokinetics of drug action(s), the side effects of psychoactive and psychotherapeutic drugs, the development of tolerance, the development of dependency and issues regarding withdrawal, and cross addiction(s). Additional study will include: The self-administration of drugs, alcohol and its effects, tranquilizers and sedative hypnotics, inhaled substances, tobacco and nicotine, caffeine and methylxanthines, psychomotor stimulants, opiates, antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants and mood stabilizers, cannabis, and hallucinogens.

COUN 5643

Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling Theory & Techniques

The application of theories and techniques of counseling with a special emphasis on models/methods of alcohol and substance abuse/addiction/dependency counseling is important for the addiction and professional counselor. The current treatment research, the application of theoretical models, and the successful methods in the treatment process of addiction and substance abuse will be extensively examined. Understanding the causes, social implications, treatment (including the principles and philosophies of self-help), cultural competency, and prevention methods and skills will be extensively studied.

COUN 6333

Advanced Counseling and Psychotherapy Techniques

The application of a range of treatment interventions aligned with the major theories of counseling establishes the framework for effective results-oriented counseling. Students will learn to skillfully apply counseling theory in real-world settings by intense study of theory specific approaches to case conceptualization and treatment planning. Students will examine the evidence base for each theory as well as unique applications for specific culturally and sexually diverse populations. Students will design and perform counseling sessions based on the conceptualization of treatment that incorporates a wide range of treatment interventions. Models for performing treatment can include distress tolerance skills, emotion regulation skills, cognitive thinking strategies, cognitive-behavioral methodologies, belief processing and cognitive reframing, therapeutic relaxation and mindfulness, thinking strategies, experiential changes techniques, psycho-physiological methods, and advanced therapeutic language skills.