WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Westfield State University’s Addiction Counselor Education (ACE) program is to guarantee students the professionalism and skills needed to help those recovering from substance use disorders.

Substance use disorders, mental health disorders, and co-occurring disorders are explored in the program as well as counseling skills and practices.

The term substance use disorder is commonly used to describe alcohol and drug addictions. Students study substances such as alcohol, nicotine, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, and inhalants. These substances may be mild, moderate, or severe. “Our students are prepared with an understanding of assessment and recognizing the range as well as any mental health disorders that may be co-occurring,” said Community Education Coordinator, Brandon Fredette.

As part of the ACE program, students gain knowledge of levels of care and treatment modalities, become eligible for licensure to become substance abuse counselors, and can work for the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Addiction with the Department of Public Health.

Skills, knowledge, and techniques that are provided to students:

  • Learn to assess and treat individuals with substance use disorders
  • Build a therapeutic alliance with active listening skills based on best practice approaches
  • Learn how to assess and recognize mental illness and assist individuals with co-occurring disorders as part of the treatment planning process
  • Learn counseling skills that will assist them with providing individual counseling and group counseling
  • Learn the varying levels of care and how to provide assessment so that individuals receive the appropriate level of treatment. This could range from varying levels of inpatient treatment to outpatient treatment.
  • Learn how to work with families that have been impacted by addiction
  • There is also a course to provide students with an understanding of practice and policy within the criminal justice system that explores the relationship between substance use disorders and the impact on services provided within the criminal justice setting. 

Fredette explains the importance of introducing students to an array of clinical issues associated with substance use disorders. “It has many components and implications. It impacts the individual, their families, the health care community, and the criminal justice system. Students must learn how to assess these different components to provide the best possible treatment for the best possible outcomes,” he said, “we want individuals to recover, heal, and be at their best for themselves and their families. We want individuals to feel that their treatment providers understand their disease and can provide professional quality care with compassion. This gives individuals entering treatment hope and encouragement.”

For students to obtain firsthand experience in the treatment field, ACE offers a 300-hour Practicum placement at an agency of their choice. “Many of the students obtain employment with these agencies post Practicum placement,” Fredette said. Westfield State also provides students with employment opportunity information through networking resources. 

For students interested in the 2022/2023 ACE program, applications are currently being accepted through their website.