The New School for Social Research

MA Concentration in Substance Abuse Counseling

  • The Concentration in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling (CMHSAC) is an optional academic and clinical training program offered in conjunction with the master’s degree in General Psychology at The New School for Social Research (NSSR). The curriculum brings together courses in the treatment of addictive behaviors as well as general principles of psychology, providing students with a unique foundation for work in this field. Program benefits include the following:

    • Students who enroll in the CMHSAC participate in field placements in New York City treatment agencies, receiving practical and applied training in treating substance use disorders.
    • Through this program, students can fulfill the academic requirements needed to apply to take the New York State examination for Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselors (CASACs).
    • After graduating from the CMHSAC and MA in General Psychology, students are eligible to apply to New York State for a CASAC-Trainee (CASAC-T) certificate. Graduates who take the CASAC exam and receive their CASAC-T will not be granted full CASAC certification until they have completed the required 2,000 hours of work experience, which can be done at a variety of OASAS-approved treatment facilities in New York City. Read more about obtaining the CASAC-T on the OASAS website.
    • The CMHSAC employs a harm reduction orientation, putting this program at the cutting edge of training in the treatment of addictive behaviors. The CMHSAC regularly sponsors workshops, events, and trainings that promote a harm reduction orientation.
    • Earning the CMHSAC gives graduates a competitive edge among their colleagues in the field. CASAC-certified CMHSAC students are employable in New York State as substance abuse counselors at hundreds of treatment sites in New York State, giving them a distinct advantage over students other Psychology master’s programs.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: CMHSAC students who petition to enter a PhD program are subject to the same admission requirements as students enrolled in the master’s degree program in General Psychology: an acceptable grade point average; passing the comprehensive exam; passing both a master’s-level research methods course and the Assessment of Individual Differences course; and meeting the statistics competency requirement.

    The following caveats apply

    • CMHSAC students may find it harder to take so-called “comps-relevant” courses as electives. Accordingly, CMHSAC students are strongly encouraged to audit as many comps-relevant courses as their schedules allow.
    • The one-credit Ethics course and the two-hour online Child Abuse Reporting training are not CMHSAC course requirements but are among the New York State academic requirements for CASAC eligibility. Students who wish to complete all of the academic requirements to sit for the CASAC exam must take the Ethics course (increasing their total credits to 31). They must also take the free 2-hour training in Child Abuse Reporting, which is completed as part of the Advanced Issues in Substance Abuse Counseling Course.
    • CMHSAC students who intend to apply for the Clinical Psychology PhD program must take Research Methods, Introduction to Statistics and Research Design, and History and Systems courses. Therefore, they are unable to take any elective courses and instead must complete one additional A-level course.
    • The Adult Psychopathology course is not part of the department's required CMHSAC curriculum, but it is required for CASAC eligibility and the Clinical Psychology PhD track.

    Graduates of CMHSAC programs that meet all of the 350-hour educational requirements for CASAC eligibility—Introduction and Advanced Substance Abuse courses, Path 3, Adult Path, Ethics, and the two-hour mandated online Child Abuse Reporting training (taken as part of the Advanced Issues course)—will now be permitted by the New York State Office of Substance Abuse Services to sit for the CASAC examination immediately following completion of their master’s degrees with work experience to be acquired later. Graduates who take the CASAC exam and receive their scores will not be granted CASAC certification until they have completed the required 2,000 hours of work experience.

    Supervised clinical placements at several substance abuse treatment facilities in the New York City area are available to qualified students in the program. Although direct clinical experience is not required for as part of the curriculum for the CMHSAC master's degree, it is strongly encouraged.

    Information and Questions

    Students are advised to consult with their student advisors and review the CMHSAC Handbook (see sidebar link) before registering for CMHSAC-related courses.
    Questions about the Concentration in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling? Email us at