By Rose Miller, Staff Reporter 

Rehabilitation Services and Special Education Division Chair Dr. Jewel Jones (Photo courtesy of Rose Miller)

Rehabilitation Services and Special Education Division Chair Dr. Jewel Jones (Photo courtesy of Rose Miller)

UMF now offers a new academic opportunity for students considering working in the field of substance abuse and addiction with the creation of the new Addiction Rehabilitation Certificate Program. While many students enrolled in the certificate program are Rehabilitation Services majors, because the program is a certificate and not a specialization, it is open to students of all majors who may be interested in gaining the skills to work with a population of individuals dealing with addiction.

Rehabilitation Services and Special Education Division Chair Dr. Jewel Jones provided background and details about the program. “Over the past few years, there’s been such an increase in addiction particularly in Maine,” said Jones. Going on, Jones explained how the addiction field was of increasing interest to students.

“With so many of our students wanting to go into the addiction field and the demand across the country with such a positive growth rate for employment,” said Jones, “we decided to open up a certificate rather than a specialization so that it could be open to all majors.” In the past, specializations were offered within the Rehabilitation Services Major including one focusing on addiction, however they have since been discontinued.  

Comprised of 22 credits, many of which overlap with the Rehabilitation Major, the program includes  courses such as “Addiction Rehabilitation” and “Advanced Addiction Rehabilitation.” In addition to courses, Rehab Majors enrolled in the certificate program will be placed in qualifying internships where they can gain clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. With this foundation, students will be better prepared to pass the certification exam to become a licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.

According to Jones, becoming a licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor in Maine means sitting for the National Alcohol and Drug Counselor Exam. However she explained that in order to sit for the exam, “you have to be doing the work under the supervision of someone who’s licensed.” She mused, “So it sounds like a catch 22.”  

The purpose of the certificate is to ensure students are more highly qualified and help to secure internships that will eventually allow them to make the next step. “That’s one of the great parts we can provide in our major for our structured internships in these different facilities,” said Jones.

One student enrolled in the certificate program, Rehabilitation Services major Haley Berry, is already participating in an internship and is on track to becoming a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. “I’ve always wanted to help people with their lives,” said Berry as she expressed her ambition to become a counselor.

Berry is currently participating in an internship at DayOne, a residential treatment facility for adolescents in Hinckley, Maine. In addition to helping the young men at the program to “start living their lives without drugs,” Berry will meet with their parole officers and will get firsthand experience with the implementation of substance abuse treatment within the facility, including working on treatment plans. “I will also be leading my own group sessions and my own individual counseling sessions,” said Berry in an email, “but the first step is to observe how each of the sessions are conducted.”

Not all students may be as sure as Berry that they want to become clinically licensed to deal exclusively with addiction. Jones emphasized however, that there’s often overlap between addiction issues and other mental health problems that professionals of other specialties often face. With the likely possibility of co-occurring disorders arising, Jones emphasized that the resources made available in the certificate’s courses will help not only those hoping to become certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors but students going into similar fields as well.

“And so regardless if students pursue a career as a substance abuse counselor or not, they will have these tools to use shall addiction situations come up,” Jones continued, “and my personal experience has been it seems they do come up more often than not.”

While the opportunity has mostly been taken by Rehabilitation Majors so far, Jones explained that students from other majors have already expressed interest. As for capacity to accept new students, Jones explained that space is tight, but they are working to remedy this problem. “…our staff and our adjunct staff who are counselors in the field are looking to help with our capacity issue by offering possible summer courses or other options.”