How to Become a Psychologist for Treatment of Alcohol and Other Psychoactive Substance Use Disorders

Substance abuse psychologists play a key role in breaking the cycle of addiction. They provide clinical services, such as counseling, to help patients who have chemical dependency issues manage the emotional effects of withdrawal, such as anxiety and depression, and determine the situations that lead to drug abuse. They collect information through observations and interviews, design and implement treatment plans, and work with other healthcare specialists to provide comprehensive care. They may also use motivational interviewing and family therapy to give their patient the best chance to break their addiction.

What degree is required to become a psychologist for treatment of alcohol and other psychoactive substance abuse disorders?

Similar to other members of the profession, substance abuse psychologists must have a master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree to be licensed to practice in their state. Substance abuse counseling is typically offered as a concentration in undergraduate and graduate psychology degree programs. These concentrations typically feature courses in developmental psychology, psychopharmacology, the psychology of addiction, and theories and practice of substance abuse. Substance abuse psychology may also be a specialization offered within a general psychology or a clinical psychology doctoral degree program.

Current students or practicing professionals can also enroll in substance abuse or alcohol and drug abuse certificate programs. These programs include study in behavioral pharmacology and biomedical foundations of chemical dependency, counseling techniques in chemical dependency, and effective models of treatment. Graduates of these certificate programs may be qualified to take their state’s drug abuse counseling exam, if applicable.

How long does it take to become a psychologist for treatment of alcohol and other psychoactive substance abuse disorders?

A doctoral degree in psychology may take seven or more years to complete, depending on the school. In addition to standard courses, students are required to participate in clinical internships and research projects, including a doctoral dissertation. Meanwhile, a master’s degree program in psychology with a concentration in substance abuse counseling may require two years of full-time study to finish. The certificate program may be as few as 10 courses or as many as 34, depending on the institution.

What is a psychologist for treatment of alcohol and other psychoactive substance abuse disorders’s salary?

Graduates of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program in psychology with a concentration in substance abuse counseling may be qualified for employment as substance abuse counselors or mental health counselors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), substance abuse counselors earned a median annual salary of $38,120 and mental health counselors earned $39,710 in May 2010.. Meanwhile, graduates of a doctoral degree program may work as psychologists, who earned a median annual salary of $68,640 in May 2010, according to the BLS. These statistics are no guarantee of actual salary, which is determined by such factors as location, employer, condition of the economy, and an applicant’s skills and credentials.