Alcohol and Drug Counseling MS

College of Community Studies and Public Affairs
Graduate degree / Master of Science

About this program

Mastery of substance use disorders counseling requires superior competency in the delivery of best practices in combination with strong client-centered clinical skills.

The Master of Science in Alcohol and Drug Counseling is designed to foster the necessary advanced knowledge and skills, allowing counselors to address the increasingly complex challenge of effectively addressing substance use disorders. The program is strongly centered on building advanced clinical skills, implementing best practices that are  community responsive, demonstrating anti-oppressive care and striving for ethical excellence.

Graduates qualify for licensure as Alcohol and Drug Counselors in the state of Minnesota.

Information sessions

The MSADC offers limited information sessions and you are highly encouraged to attend one if possible! Top three reasons to attend an information session:

  • Learn how the program can help you be successful
  • Engage with program staff and network with peers
  • Remove obstacles and develop an actionable academic plan

No information sessions are scheduled at this time.

If you are unable to attend, and if after reviewing the information on the website you have further questions about the program,you may make an appointment with Professor Therissa Libby.

Student outcomes

Graduates of the MS in Alcohol and Drug Counseling are prepared to: 

  • Integrate effective practices into service delivery to those affected by substance use disorders by
    •  distinguishing the strengths and limitations of clinical research.
    • appraising research literature for quality and applicability to practice.
    • critiquing research literature for multicultural inclusion and applicability.
    • implementing effective research-based strategies in clinical settings.
  • Provide high-quality, culturally-responsive counseling to those affected by substance use disorders by 
    • engaging in person-centered care across the service continuum, including assessment, care planning, resource access and long-term support.
    • applying appropriate counseling theories and strategies in clinical settings. 
    • addressing systemic barriers to optimal outcomes for individuals, families and communities.
    • demonstrating humility and effectiveness in the delivery of cross-cultural counseling.
    • utilizing clinical supervision for ongoing practice improvement.
  • Demonstrate ethical excellence in all aspects of substance use disorders counseling practice by - addressing physical, mental and relational health on an ongoing basis.
    • integrating relevant statutory and ethical guidelines into a personal code of professional practice.
    • implementing an effective process for evaluating and responding to ethically challenging situations.
    • evaluating the impact on professional practice of own privilege, oppression and bias on an ongoing basis.
    • advancing competence through professional licensure, professional association involvement and continuing education.

Enrolling in this program

Program eligibility requirements

Students must be able to pass a Minnesota Department of Human Services background study.

Prior to entering practicum, students must have a minimum of two years of freedom from mental health, physical health and substance use concerns that would impair their objectivity or effectiveness in performing the duties of a professional counselor.

Application instructions

Deadlines

Nov 1 - Fall semester admission only
Feb 1 - Fall semester admission only
May 1 - Fall semester admission only

Early submission of completed application is highly recommended. Completed application files are reviewed following each deadline and interviews are scheduled upon review completion. Admission decisions are made within two weeks after completed interview and applicants are notified via U.S. mail by the Master of Science in Alcohol and Drug Counseling program.

Admission criteria

  • An earned baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited university (or equivalent) with a total undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).  
    • Priority is given to applicants with an earned baccalaureate degree in a health, behavioral or social science. However, an applicant with an earned baccalaureate degree in another field may be considered if the field is in some way related to a health, social or behavioral science OR if the applicant has work experience relevant to providing alcohol and drug services.
    • Students with a GPA lower than 3.0 may be admitted conditionally and could progress to full admission upon completion of at least 8 graduate level credits with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • The following undergraduate coursework, while not required, significantly strengthens your application:
    • Statistics (STAT 201 or equivalent)
    • Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 300 or equivalent)
    • Research Methods (PSYC 312, HSER 368 or equivalent)

Application file

A complete application file consists of two parts (three for international students.) Begin the application process by completing the online graduate application. Once you've applied online, you can log in to the Applicant Portal using your StarID and password to upload your remaining documents, submit your references, and check on the status of your application.

Part one

  • Online Application - You will use your Minnesota State StarID to complete the application. If you don't have a Minnesota State StarID you will create one at the beginning of the application.
    • If you do not have or choose not to provide your Social Security number (SSN) please follow the No SSN instructions to activate your StarID.
    • If you encounter difficulty with the online application please email graduate.studies@metrostate.edu.
  • Non-refundable application fee; pay online
    • The current fee of $20 is waived for graduates of Metropolitan State.
  • Official transcripts 
    • Must show a baccalaureate degree or equivalent earned from a regionally accredited institution with grade-point average or narrative description describing courses completed.
    • Transcripts from ALL schools attended after high school and from any graduate or professional programs are required.
    • All transcripts from non-U.S. schools must be evaluated (course-by-course) by either ECE (preferred) or WES.
    • Electronic transcripts should be sent to graduate.studies@metrostate.edu.
    • Paper transcripts should be sent directly from the sending institution (preferred) to:   
      • Metropolitan State University
        Attn: Graduate Admissions
        700 East Seventh Street
        Saint Paul MN 55106

Part two

  • Resume: Upload
    • Work experience: Preference will be given to applicants with at least 2000 hours (equivalent to one year full-time) paid employment in an agency, program or other settings that offer alcohol and drug-related services. However, promising applicants without such experience will also be considered.
  • Admission Essay: Upload
    • Please submit no fewer than five and no more than seven pages that include:
    • Professional purpose: Briefly explain your purpose in becoming a counselor or enhancing your existing counseling practice. Include thoughts on your shorter- and longer-term goals, as well as your inspirations or motivations for choosing this particular field.
    • Explanation of a theory/model of addiction: As appropriate to your level of experience, briefly explain your preferred theory of addiction. Include what you know about causal elements, research evidence and an example of the application of this theory/model.
    • Explanation of a counseling approach: As appropriate to your level of experience, briefly explain your preferred counseling approach. Include an overview of the approach, research evidence and an example of how you would use or have used this with a client.
    • Statement of self-care: Include a brief narrative regarding your commitment to self-care, as well as freedom from mental health, physical health, and substance use problems that could impair your objectivity and effectiveness as a counselor (consistent with the state of Minnesota's expectation for those holding professional licensure as alcohol and drug counselors).
  • Professional References: Submit reference contact information using the online application.
    • Provide three references from professional sources, at least one of which is a current or former college instructor, and at least one of which is a current or former work supervisor. Personal references will not be considered.Applicants should remind their references of the application deadline when speaking with them.
    • Ask at least one of these individuals to attest that you have at least two years of freedom from mental health, physical health, and substance use problems that would impair your objectivity or effectiveness in performing the duties of a professional counselor.
    • Once submitted, references will receive a "no reply" email from Minnesota State with a link to the recommendation form.
    • References should check junk mail if the email is not in their inbox. The link is good for 60 days, however, the application deadline may be sooner.
  • In-person Interview: Final candidates participate in an in-person admissions interview that includes an evaluation of listening and empathy skills.
    • Program staff will follow up with final candidates to schedule this interview. If circumstances such as geographic distance restricts a candidate's ability to participate in an in-person interview, the program may consider conducting the interview via video conference.
    • If you are currently licensed in alcohol and drug counseling, professional counseling, social work, marriage, and family therapy or psychology, please bring a copy of your unencumbered license to the interview.

Part three - international students only

In addition to parts one and two, international applicants in the U.S. or abroad, on any type of visa, are required to provide this information for admission to the university.

  • Proof of English proficiency (official TOEFL or IELTS score)
    • Minimum scores: TOEFL 80 IBT, 213 CBT, 550 PBT or IELTS 6.5
    • IBT=internet based; CBT=computer based; PBT=paper based
  • Financial statement (F1 visa only)
  • Immunization records
  • Copies of passport, visa, I-94, and international home address and phone numbers

Visit International Student Services graduate admissions for part three details.

Submit materials to the Graduate Studies Office via mail using the mailing address below or by email to graduate.studies@metrostate.edu


Questions about applying to the MSADC?

  • Questions about the online application, fee, transcripts/transcript evaluations, online references and document upload feature can be sent to graduate.studies@metrostate.edu (preferred) or you can call 612-659-7150.
  • Questions about Part Two requirements or the program in general can be sent to therissa.libby@metrostate.edu (preferred) or you can call 651-793-1501.

Program requirements

Students must be able to pass a Minnesota Department of Human Services background study.

Prior to entering practicum, students must have a minimum of two years of freedom from mental health, physical health and substance use concerns that would impair their objectivity or effectiveness in performing the duties of a substance use disorders counselor. 

Academic Standing

Students must maintain satisfactory academic progress to remain in the  program and to maintain financial aid eligibility. Only courses with a letter grade of B- (2.67) or better count toward degree requirements; a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 is required for graduation. Grading in the program is letter grade only; pass/fail grading is not an option.

A letter grade of C+ (2.33) or below in any graduate course results in being placed on academic probation. A letter grade of C+ or below in two courses results in being dismissed from the graduate program. Under such circumstances, application for readmission may be undertaken after one calendar year has passed. To reapply, the student must submit an updated resume, a letter indicating what circumstances have changed, and a plan for successfully completing the program. The Program Director reviews the request and responds in writing.

Time to Completion

Full-time students (8 credits per semester) complete the program in two years. Part-time students (5-6 credits per semester) complete the program in three years.

Contact Information
After reviewing the information provided on the website, if you have specific questions regarding the MS in Co-occurring Disorders Recovery Counseling, you may email therissa.libby@metrostate.edu. General questions about the application process can be directed to graduate.studies@metrostate.edu.

Student licensure

Graduates qualify for licensure as Alcohol and Drug Counselors in the state of Minnesota.

Course requirements

Requirements (48 credits)

Foundation (12 credits)

HSCD 600 Foundations, Models and Evidence-Based Practices

2 credits

This course provides an advanced survey of the history of the alcohol and drug counseling discipline, the foundations of the practice of alcohol and drug counseling, and current evidence-based practices that are informing practice and improving outcomes. Students review the historical, social, cultural, theoretical and epidemiological foundations of alcohol and drug counseling; utilize this foundation to explore the scientific research that underpins theories of addiction; explore and critique evidence-based practices and interventions that produce positive behavior change those receiving alcohol and drug counseling services; and discuss the future of the profession.

Full course description for Foundations, Models and Evidence-Based Practices

HSCD 601 Theory and Practice of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies

3 credits

In this course, students explore cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBTs) and their application to substance use disorders counseling (SUDC) and co-occurring disorders counseling (CODC). Theory, research base and practice are all emphasized. In considering the theoretical base of CBTs, students investigate the research and service gaps in multicultural application of these interventions. The course includes a practice dimension that allows students to advance their skills in using multiple cognitive-behavioral approaches with clients in SUDC and CODC.

Full course description for Theory and Practice of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies

HSCD 602 Advanced Motivational Interviewing: Practice and Supervision

2 credits

This course focuses on motivational interviewing (MI) skills. Students consider the theory, research base and practice of MI. Building on this knowledge, students are guided through practice exercises and skill-building sessions. These include recording and coding of mock counseling sessions, which are designed to build student proficiency in utilization of this key component of alcohol and drug counseling.

Full course description for Advanced Motivational Interviewing: Practice and Supervision

HSCD 650 Evaluation and Utilization of Research

2 credits

This course is designed to expand understanding of formal and informal investigations relevant to alcohol and drug counseling, and to guide students in evaluating research and incorporating research results into counseling practice. Students endeavor to become proficient in searching, evaluating and critiquing scientific literature, particularly that regarding evidence-based practices and clinical outcomes evaluation in alcohol and drug counseling. Students also critically assess research with regard to the populations on which it is performed and on which its evaluation instruments are normed. This course provides the foundation for the Masters Project, as students determine the topic areas of their projects and consider how to implement them with underserved populations.

Full course description for Evaluation and Utilization of Research

Core (28 credits)

HSCD 603 Ethics and Professional Practice

2 credits

This course provides advanced understanding of the ethical and professional responsibilities of alcohol and drug counselors. The course explores specific components of ethical theories, the Rules of Professional Conduct for Alcohol and Drug Counselors in Minnesota, the ethical decision-making process, and application to specific clinical cases. Emphasis is placed on thoughtful consideration of ethically ambiguous and/or morally charged situations, on engaging in dialogue with peers to help resolve them, and on each student's personal biases as they affect decision-making. Attention is also given to the role of self-care in maintaining professionalism.

Full course description for Ethics and Professional Practice

HSCD 610 Evidence-Based Group Counseling

3 credits

In this course, students investigate group theories, dynamics and processes at an advanced level. Emphasis is placed on the foundations of group facilitation and on application of motivational interviewing skills, cognitive behavioral strategies and other evidence-based practices to group counseling. Students gain advanced knowledge and capacities in process, dynamics, developmental stages, leadership and ethical issues involved facilitating group work in substance use disorders counseling (SUDC) and co-occurring disorders counseling (CODC). Students participate in a classroom-based skills development group as part of this course.

Full course description for Evidence-Based Group Counseling

HSCD 611 Culturally Responsive and Anti-Oppressive Practice

3 credits

In this course, students engage in thoughtful dialogue regarding issues of race, class, language and immigrant status in the provision of alcohol and drug counseling and co-occurring disorders counseling services. The course places the interplay of racism, classism and addiction in its historical context, and considers how institutionalized race and class privilege manifest in current research and treatment gaps and law enforcement biases. Attention is given to the intersectionality of racism and classism with other forms of oppression, such as those based on sex, sexual and gender identity and ability. Students examine their own preconceptions and points of privilege, and evaluate methods of bridging service gaps through incremental and systemic change. Students also consider power structures in helping relationships, with the goal of creating egalitarian and empowering practices in alcohol and drug counseling and co-occurring disorders counseling.

Full course description for Culturally Responsive and Anti-Oppressive Practice

HSCD 620 Psychopharmacology

3 credits

This course provides a broad understanding of psychopharmacology related to substance use and co-occurring disorders. Following a review of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and synaptic and behavioral mechanisms of addictive drugs, the course focuses on medications used to treat substance use and psychiatric disorders. Students distinguish among the major classes of psychotherapeutic and anti-addiction medications, and evaluate the evidence base for clinical effectiveness of psychiatric medications for co-occurring disorders and medication-assisted treatments for substance use disorders. Competence Statement Students demonstrate knowledge of the actions of addictive drugs and psychiatric and anti-addiction medications on the brain and behavior, and demonstrate application of this knowledge as would be expected in clinical settings.

Full course description for Psychopharmacology

HSCD 630 Integrated Care: Screening and Assessment

3 credits

A wide variety of screening instruments, assessment tools and diagnostic criteria are used to evaluate the nature and severity of substance use disorders (SUD) and co-occurring disorders (COD). In this course, students examine the process of screening and assessment, beginning with a consideration of counselor characteristics that influence effective engagement of clients, and of ethical concerns inherent in assessment. Screening and assessment methods are evaluated on their evidence base, with special consideration given to cultural inclusion in creating, norming and applying such methods. Students gain advanced experience in utilizing screening and assessment methods that show evidence of validity, reliability and cultural appropriateness, with particular attention to those required by the state of Minnesota for service placement. Competence Statement Students demonstrate skill in assessing substance use and co-occurring mental disorders in a highly professional, therapeutic and…

Full course description for Integrated Care: Screening and Assessment

HSCD 631 Integrated Care: Treatment and Recovery Planning

3 credits

The development and implementation of treatment plans is considered key to effective practice of substance use and co-occurring disorders counseling. In addition, treatment planning can play a central role in advocating for and obtaining the most appropriate care for a client. This course examines both treatment (short-term) and recovery (medium- to long-term) planning, including an examination of relevant service delivery systems in Minnesota. Students examine and practice counselor characteristics and strategies that promote retention in care, plan adherence and relapse prevention. Students consider the central roles of stage of change, client autonomy, cultural appropriateness and responsiveness, and motivational enhancement in treatment and recovery planning, and engage in advanced skills-building exercises. Competence Statement Students demonstrate knowledge and skills needed to assist individuals in designing person-centered, strengths-based care plans and to complete…

Full course description for Integrated Care: Treatment and Recovery Planning

HSCD 632 Integrated Care: Harm Reduction and Case Management

3 credits

This course introduces the philosophical underpinnings of public health approaches to and case management of substance use and co-occurring disorders. Students gain knowledge and understanding of the history, principles and strategies of harm reduction interventions, as well as knowledge of and proficiency in delivering specific brief interventions that have been shown to reduce both risky behavior and its consequences. Students also review the principles of and strategies for effective case management in substance use and co-occurring disorders counseling, and create a broad database of case management resources. Significant attention is paid to culturally specific considerations and strategies, and students consider issues of gender, race, class and age when reviewing access to and appropriateness of services.

Full course description for Integrated Care: Harm Reduction and Case Management

HSCD 640 Clinical Supervision

3 credits

This course is designed to prepare students for effective clinical supervision in the provision of services for those with substance use and co-occurring disorders. Topics include elements of supervision, enhancing effectiveness of supervision, managing the supervisory relationship, and ethical and legal concerns that supervisors may be required to address. Consideration is given to power structures, pitfalls and cross-cultural issues encountered in supervisory relationships, and to supervision as a partnership in support of superior client care and professional goals.

Full course description for Clinical Supervision

PSYC 611 Advanced Lifespan Developmental Psychology

3 credits

Lifespan developmental psychology reviews a variety of advanced concepts, theories and principles of human development from conception, prenatal development, and young adulthood through late adulthood. This course will emphasize the cognitive, physical and social aspects of development from a topical approach and review important contemporary as well as classic theories addressing lifespan development. Discussions will include a variety of contemporary topics of developmental psychology (i.e., Gender differences in behaviors, ADHD; Childhood obesity, styles of play and cultural parenting practices) from a variety of scholarly journal articles. Other key topics that will be addressed include research design in developmental psychology, maturation, cross-cultural topics relative to parenting and lifespan development, human growth experiences and the various stages of physical development as key components influencing human behaviors.

Full course description for Advanced Lifespan Developmental Psychology

PSYC 648 Psychopathology

3 credits

In this course, students gain advanced understanding of the etiology and treatment of psychopathology/psychiatric disorders as viewed from several theoretical perspectives. Assessment and diagnostic tools are reviewed, preparing students to apply this information in clinical practice. The overlap between psychopathology/psychiatric disorders and substance use disorders is described. The widely used DSM diagnostic system will be critically examined in terms of both its evidence base and its multicultural relevance.

Full course description for Psychopathology

Research application (4 credits)

HSCD 651 Master's Project Seminar

1-2 credits

This course supports students in creating, carrying out and completing projects designed to improve service delivery in alcohol and drug counseling. Building on work begun in HSCD 650, students review literature relevant to their topic areas, and network with local service providers regarding opportunities for implementing their projects with underserved populations. Under faculty supervision, students design projects and implement them in clinical or community-based settings that provide services to clients with substance use or co-occurring disorders, and follow up with outcome evaluation measures.

Full course description for Master's Project Seminar

Clinical application (4 credits)

HSCD 681 Practicum I

1-2 credits

This series provides students with opportunities to demonstrate the advanced knowledge and skills acquired during their academic coursework and practice by implementing them in clinical or community-based settings. The practicum series requires students to demonstrate advanced competence in alcohol and drug counseling and co-occurring disorders counseling. Students find placement in settings that provide opportunities for multicultural applications of evidence-based practices. The classroom portion of the course allows students to review and critically analyze counseling style, anti-oppressive practice, ethical issues and the practicum setting.

Full course description for Practicum I

HSCD 682 Practicum II

1-2 credits

This series continues the practicum program begun in HSCD 681, and fosters greater independence in utilizing the advanced knowledge and skills acquired during their academic coursework. Students continue under site and faculty supervision as they take on advanced intern-level duties in clinical or community-based settings. Field placements allow students to complete the internship hours required for licensure as both alcohol and drug counselors and professional counselors in Minnesota, while obtaining essential mentorship and networking for employment in the field following completion of graduate studies. The classroom portion of the course allows students to review and critically analyze counseling style, anti-oppressive practice, ethical issues and the practicum setting.

Full course description for Practicum II

Electives

HSCD 612 Family Counseling

2 credits

This course provides an advanced survey of family systems theories and family therapies. Attention is given to evidence-based practices, particularly cognitive-behavioral interventions and therapies; this includes an overview of a variety of approaches that assist families in coping with substance use and co-occurring disorders. Students engage with cross-generational issues and multicultural considerations, and review social and practice trends as relevant to family therapy. Competence Statement Students integrate knowledge of family systems theories into their understanding of substance use and co-occurring disorders service provision, and demonstrate counseling and psycho-educational skills utilized in the application of family systems therapies.

Full course description for Family Counseling

HSCD 613 Career Development Theory and Practice

2 credits

This course provides an overview of the major theories of career development, career choice, and decision making, emphasizing assessment, vocational guidance strategies, and sources of occupational information. Attention is paid to multicultural and gender issues related to career development and applications of career counseling. Competence Statement Students demonstrate knowledge and skills needed to assess and facilitate career development in those affected by substance use and co-occurring disorders.

Full course description for Career Development Theory and Practice

PSYC 602 Prevention Theories and Strategies

4 credits

This course provides an advanced survey of theories and approaches to preventive psychology. Students will develop knowledge and skills that can be used in helping individuals, communities and organizations work to prevent issues such as violence, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, child abuse, obesity, and other behaviorally based social, mental health, and health issues. Emphasis is placed on developing knowledge and skills relevant to creating and adapting prevention programs for use in culturally diverse communities. Topics may include: stress and coping theory/research; social support and mutual help interventions; prevention theory, research, and strategies; health promotion and other community/social change strategies.

Full course description for Prevention Theories and Strategies

PSYC 618 Program Evaluation

4 credits

Learn how to utilize research skills in the applied area of program evaluation, including conceptualization, roles as evaluators, planning and implementing an evaluation, as well as analyzing and reporting results to stakeholders and participants. The strengths and weaknesses of various quantitative and qualitative methods of program evaluation are discussed, emphasizing an awareness of and sensitivity to potential cultural, class, and gender differences in the evaluation process. Students engage in a community-based program evaluation hands-on project.

Full course description for Program Evaluation