Students interested in addiction counseling can now receive their master’s degree from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Health Professions. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the program and is now accepting enrollment for Fall 2017.
“Our Master of Science in Addiction Counseling (MSAC) program is the first fully-online addiction counseling program to be available in Texas and will be the third in the U.S.,” Zach Sneed, Ph.D., program director of Master of Science in Addiction Counseling, said. “What is different about our program is that students will be trained in telehealth while receiving their clinical training. When they graduate from this program, they will receive a certificate in telehealth.”
Graduates will be able to pursue professional licensure, and as telehealth initiatives grow, alumni will be better prepared to meet the diverse health care needs of West Texas and beyond.
“This means graduates will be prepared to see patients who would have to drive hours just to access a counselor,” Sneed said. “This broadens their reach and makes counseling a more viable option for patients living in rural areas.”
The program is 60 credit hours and places an emphasis on alcohol and drug use disorders, process and behavioral addictions such as food and gambling, appraisal and diagnosis, psychopharmacology and prevention training. The program broadens students’ skillset by developing behavioral and cognitive therapy skills for counselors to utilize with patients along with the 12-step recovery method. After receiving their MSAC, graduates are eligible to sit for the Texas Certification Board of Addiction Professionals’ examination and National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification to become a national certified counselor.
Addiction, one of the biggest health issues of the 21st century, affects millions of people. Overdose-related deaths have more than doubled over the past 15 years. In a given year, addiction affects, an estimated 30 – 45 million Americans or, about 10 to 15 percent of the population. When left untreated, the societal costs of addiction exceed $400 billion, annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Counselors are treating the most difficult part of the body,” Sneed said. “We can’t take the brain out, examine it, and put it back in. Addiction has a lot of complex factors, neurobiology, the substance or behavior that is involved and genetics all play a role in a patient’s treatment plan. The truth is that addiction affects the chemical and physical makeup of the brain.”
Sneed said to take tobacco for example. Nicotine, from tobacco use, affects the release of acetylcholine, a natural neurotransmitter. Using tobacco products floods these receptors in the brain. Over time, this flooding damages the receptors and makes the brain release less acetylcholine on its own, leading the person to feeling the need to use tobacco again just to feel normal.
“Genetics also play a role in how addictive substances influence the brain,” Sneed said. “Recognizing addiction as a brain-based disease instead of a moral shortfall makes it more likely for patients to seek treatment.”
Visit http://www.ttuhsc.edu/health-professions/master-of-science-addiction-counseling/ or call Sneed at (806)743-4274 for more information about the program.