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The Graduate Program That’s Revolutionizing Addiction Counseling Education

Dr. Bradley Conner, Associate Professor and Director of Addiction Counseling at Colorado State University (CSU), talks with the CEO of the Telehealth Certification Institute about his university’s innovative approach to training addiction specialists. As a researcher, Dr. Conner studies the etiology and negative outcomes of sensation seeking, emotion dysregulation, and impulsivity across the lifespan. He looks at how personality types influence the course of disorders and engagement with risky behaviors. In the interview, Dr. Conner uses his expertise to describe the unique addiction training model at CSU.

Dr. Conner explains how the grassroots movement in the addiction counseling field has impacted the availability and training of substance-use professionals. Even though many professionals bring valuable lived experience of addiction to their positions, core counseling skills taught through graduate-level addiction counseling degree programs were often lacking in hired staff members. As Dr. Conner put it, his program seeks to “fill the employment gap” by training addiction counselors with job-ready skills and competencies suited for the substance-use environment. According to Dr. Conner, Licensed Professional Counselors who specialize only in addiction “are a rarity in the field.” The underserved addiction population, on average, “has 30 trained counselors for every 1,000 individuals with an addiction,” and requires bold adaptations to enhance the quality of care.

The Master’s Degree in Addiction Counseling at Colorado State University offers a comprehensive course of study. Students dedicate their first year to on-site classes, while the entirety of the second year is spent in a full-time internship. With addiction counseling classes held twice a week during the evening, the program is accessible for students who have work or family obligations. A 3-year dual degree program in addiction counseling and social work is currently under development.

Entering its 5th year, the program already has a healthy track record of success. The program boasts a 100% retention and graduation rate with 90% of graduates working in the field after they complete their studies. Dr. Conner was particularly proud to say that 70-80% of incoming students each year identify with an underrepresented population, diversity that is often missing from the counseling field.  

Dr. Conner is also committed to ensuring that CSU students are prepared to practice both in-person and remotely. According to Dr. Conner, there has been a huge increase in rural and Spanish-speaking patients at the CSU clinic. Because “telehealth creates an immediate confidential environment,” and does not require months or years to develop, it effectively fills a gap in the delivery of care. CSU students can now be part of the solution as they help underserved communities access critical services through telehealth.

You can read more about Dr. Conner here.

By: Michael Tugendhat