Adelphi University has been ranked No. 24 on the list of best addiction counseling programs in the United States for its MA in Mental Health Counseling and MA in General Psychology, both with a substance abuse counseling concentrations.
The recognition is included in the “Top 50 Best Addiction Studies Master’s Programs” by Addiction Counselor, an educational resource for people who want to begin or advance a career in the substance abuse counseling field. This is the first year they are offering this ranking.
Errol Rodriguez, PhD, assistant dean and program director of the master’s programs in psychology and mental health counseling, who created the certificate program at Adelphi in 2012, said he appreciated the recognition because specializations don’t often get ranked. Adelphi’s substance abuse counseling concentration is a specialization embedded in both the Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling and the Master of Arts in Psychology.
“This recognizes a lot of work that has gone into developing a curriculum that will support the students in their work in a time where there are rising opioid challenges for all clinicians, not just those specifically in substance abuse work, but for all those in clinical work who struggle day in and day out trying to help patients abstain from further use,” Dr. Rodriguez said.
“I think that the ranking will really help us gain some footing in the training world and bring our program to the front of the conversation when it comes to academic training in substance abuse,” he added,
Dr. Rodriguez said Adelphi students earn an Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) certificate for completing 350 educational hours and then submit that to the state to earn their Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor Trainee (CASAC-T) certification. He said the subspecialty graduated its first few students in 2013 and by 2020 had 100. The concentration is eight courses built around state requirements for all training providers within the mental health counseling program or the MA in General Psychology program. At the time he launched the specialty, it was one of the only ones on Long Island. Dr. Rodriguez said his department’s emphasis “is on interventions and finding evidence-based practices that have shown efficacy in the clinical world to embed into the curriculum so that students are getting the latest and cleanest set of tools to work with patients.”
Each master’s program has graduated an equal number of students and all have completed the educational hours and earned their CASAC-T certification. Further, they all had jobs in the field of substance abuse almost immediately upon graduation, an important result as the need for qualified graduates is growing, Dr. Rodriguez said.
“The future need for substance abuse services is going to increase significantly because all the other mental health challenges have increased at the same time,” he said. “Anxiety, depression and those other comorbidities that can occur with substance abuse are only increasing in the past year due to the pandemic. I believe about 10 to 15 percent of the country struggles with an addiction in any given point in the year. That number is similar on Long Island.”
Among the graduates working in the field is Tamara Harris, MA ’12, MA ’17, who was among the first to enter the MA in General Psychology with a substance abuse counseling concentration. She returned to Adelphi to pursue an MA in Mental Health Counseling in 2015.
“I enrolled in my first substance abuse class and met Dr. Rodriguez who planted the seed of substance abuse counseling and, just knowing this would give me more work experience, it took off from there for me,” she said. “They told me all the training I needed to become a CASAC-T. Just receiving that training was basically an opening for me to get the experience I have now.”
Harris is now program director for WellLife Network, Inc., Northern Lights PROS in Great Neck. Since 2019, she has also been an adjunct professor in the master’s in mental health counseling program, teaching the Psychology of Addictions class.
She said the new ranking for the school was well deserved. “One of the things I still love about Adelphi is the professors take an interest in you. My class sizes were small so my professors knew who I was, and they continue to help even after you graduate.”