Jul 16, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog

Mental Health Assistant-Substance Abuse Counseling, A.S.

Location(s): City Campus

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Degree: Associate in Science
HEGIS Code: 5216
Curriculum Code: 2456.SUB

Health Sciences Division

Pre-Admission Recommendations: HS or HSE (High School Equivalency) Diploma
Career Opportunities/Further Education: Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Centers, Mental Health and Human Services Agencies

Program Description

The Mental Health Assistant - Substance Abuse Counseling Program is designed to prepare students for careers as substance abuse counselors as well as provide ongoing training for individuals already employed in the field. This course of study can be pursued on a part-time evening or full-time day and evening sequence.

While in this program the student will learn individual, group and family counseling techniques. Students pursuing the degree are required to complete two semesters of clinical internship supervised by certified addiction counselors or other qualified health professionals at various public and private facilities. This program will provide the student with techniques and strategies for determining the best available treatment options for the substance abuser and others affected by this disease and the dysfunctional behaviors correlated with it.

The Substance Abuse program fulfills all educational requirements for the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) Credentialled Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) Trainee.

Graduates of the program are eligible to apply for their CASAC-T through OASAS, which is a requirement for most entry-level positions such as substance abuse counselors in detoxification, halfway house, residential and outpatient care facilities.

Graduates of the program will have been introduced to total quality management and continuous quality improvement concepts, principles and practices as they are applied to addictions treatment, inpatient and outpatient care and case management protocols.

In the area of work experience, CASAC applicants will be required to document three years of appropriate full-time work experience in an approved work setting. Such experience may include voluntary (non-paid) work experience or clinical internship. Applicants with bachelor’s or master’s degree in the human service field from an accredited college or institute may substitute their degree for one year of work experience (for bachelor’s) or two years of work experience (for master’s degree).  Additionally, applicants completing their associate degree in the human service field from an accredited college or institute may substitute their degree for 1,000 hours work experience.

Department Notes

  • Students must purchase malpractice insurance for clinical internship.

  • OASAS credentialing requirements for CASAC requires 350 education/training clock hours in following categories of course work, including: (1) knowledge of alcoholism and substance abuse (85 hours minimum); (2) alcoholism and substance abuse counseling (150 hours minimum; (3) assessment, clinical evaluation, treatment planning, case management and patient/community education (70 hours minimum); and (4) professional and ethical responsibilities in documentation (45 hours minimum).

  • Education and Training Provider Certified by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

  • Students entering the program are held to a higher standard of expectations given the nature of the degree program.  The role of becoming a counselor needs to be taken seriously and the student’s will be looked at as entry level professionals and held to OASAS ethical guidelines.  Students entering the program who have an addiction should have at least 2 years of recovery before coming into the MHSA program. Enrollment and continuation in the MHSA program are subject to faculty approval.

Program Competencies

Upon graduation with an Associate in Science degree in Mental Health Assistant-Substance Abuse Counseling, the graduate will be able to:

  • understand the disease concept of chemical dependency;

  • apply this understanding to working with addicted individuals, families and significant others;

  • understand current chemical dependency treatment options and cross agency linkage procedures;

  • understand secondary or concurrent psychopathology and the interrelationship with substance abuse treatment and recovery;

  • understand the pharmacology of drugs, drug interactions and resulting addictive patterns;

  • develop and apply basic human relations counseling skills;

  • apply standardized diagnostic, assessment and treatment techniques;

  • perform basic individual and group counseling skills;

  • write and implement effective recovery treatment plans;

  • write appropriate and effective clinical documentation;

  • perform clinical interventions;

  • understand the roles and identity of being a professional chemical dependency counselor;

  • understand and perform according to the guidelines of confidentiality and professional ethical behavior;

  • find and use addictions literature for clinical practice; and

  • understand 12-Step and other self-help support group norms and philosophies.

SUNY Transfer Path Requirement

Students matriculating in this program are required to fulfill the SUNY Transfer Path Requirement that most closely aligns with the program. Speak to your advisor for details.


Total Degree Credits: 64.0 

First Year, Spring Semester

Second Year, Fall Semester

Second Year, Spring Semester

Summer Semester


  • Most students will need to take at least one sequence of courses during summer terms to complete the full degree program within a two-year time frame.
  • This is a recommended sequence. Students are strongly advised to seek academic advisement prior to course registration.

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