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Frostburg State University, Allegany College of Maryland Collaborate to Train Addictions Counselors

Frostburg State University and Allegany College of Maryland are collaborating to provide training to would-be addictions counselors and help them meet new Maryland regulations.

The collaboration makes use of existing programs - human services at AC and psychology and social work at FSU - but adds courses with a specific focus on addiction that both AC and FSU students can take.

Addictions-specific courses are the "missing link" between the current programs and what the state will soon require, said Cherie Snyder, coordinator of human services and integrative health at AC.

A law passed by the Maryland General Assembly will require that all addictions counselors be certified when the law goes into effect October of 2001. The state is in the process of rewriting job classifications now.

There are three levels of certification: Certified Supervised Counselor requires an associate's degree; Certified Associate Counselor requires a bachelor's degree; and the final level will require a master's degree. All levels will require supervised experience and an examination in addition to the coursework.

Previously, anyone with a high school-level diploma could receive the state training to become an addictions counselor. Provisions are being made so that current addictions counselors can receive certificates to reflect their training.

At FSU, the two degree programs that meet the Certified Associate Counselor requirements will be psychology and social work. At AC, the human services major meets the requirement for Certified Supervised Counselor.

Establishing the program collaboratively means laying out the courses for Allegany College Human Services students that will transfer, "so they're not taking unnecessary hours," said Dr. Ann R. Bristow, professor of psychology at FSU. The program requires many courses taken in sequence, so following the AC-FSU program can prevent lost time and courses that are not meant to transfer in that program, she said

It also means that addictions-specific courses that are designed to fit either program can be offered once, but AC students will register at AC, while FSU students register at FSU.

Currently all the collaborative courses are located on the FSU campus.

The newest is a one-credit course, "Ethics for the Addiction Counselor," which will be offered at FSU during the January Intersession 2001 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. Intersession registration begins Nov. 20.

Other courses will be offered in the spring 2001 semester, including another FSU-AC class, "Drugs and Human Behavior."

"It's been a really nice collaborative effort," Bristow said of the process of creating the program at the two schools.

"It's wonderful for the faculty to work together. We never would have made it go alone," Snyder said. "It's good for the students. It's good for school economics."

One of the advantages of requiring certification is to remedy what the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse called a "disconnect" between what research indicates is effective addiction treatment and what is actually being used in treatment centers, Bristow said.

There are a number of sites in Western Maryland that require trained addictions counselors, including the Department of Juvenile Justice camps and the Massie and Jackson addictions units at the Thomas B. Finan Center.

Snyder has been contacting human services graduates from recent years to see if they would be interested in picking up the additional courses needed to qualify for the state certification exam.

"We are currently reviewing a proposal to offer a letter of recognition in addictions. This would be granted to individuals completing the 10 credits of addictions-specific courses," Snyder said.

For more information about the collaborative addictions counselor training, contact Bristow at FSU at (301) 687-4446. Snyder may be contacted at AC by calling (301) 784-5556.

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589