Program Guide

CMHSAC Program Guide

The CMHSAC Program And The CASAC 

With the pressures of health care reform in general, and managed care in particular, there has been a growing interest at the state and national levels in standardizing and raising the educational and training standards for providers of substance abuse services. The Master of Arts degree in mental health and substance abuse services (CMHSAC) is a response to these developments and is intended to place students in an advantageous position for securing future employment throughout the substance abuse/mental health system.

In addition to providing a firm grounding in general psychology, the program is designed to allow students the opportunity to satisfy the academic eligibility requirements for the Certified Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) examination by completing all of the required and optional CASAC-relevant courses offered through the CMHSAC program. The CASAC certificate is a credential offered by the New York State through the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NYSOASAS) to indicate that an individual has met the local and national standards for clinical practice in the substance abuse field. The certificate is granted on the basis of a combination of: educational/academic training, relevant clinical/work experience, and successful completion of the CASAC exam (

Certified individuals are currently accorded professional status in most states and it has become increasingly difficult to secure certain types of clinical positions in the field without the benefit of a CASAC certificate or a comparable type of credential.

Although only three of the six CASAC-relevant courses currently offered under the auspices of the CMHSAC are considered requirements for the completion the concentration, there is a significant benefit to taking all of the courses. One major advantage lies in the fact that NYS OASAS has recently created the "CASAC Trainee Certificate" ( CASAC-T) as an intermediate level certification for those individuals who have completed a specific portion of the overall requirements for certification and intend to continue working towards full CASAC certification. The certificate will remain effective for a period of five years from the date that it is issued. During that time, CASAC trainees will be considered a "Quality Health Professional" (QHP) in terms of the mandated staffing mix of OASAS-licensed substance dependence programs, and thus immediately employable. One of the ways of becoming eligible for this designation is to complete the required 350 clock hours of academic training; something that can be accomplished by completing all of the required and optional CASAC –relevant courses offered through the CMHSAC program. In addition to CASAC-T eligibility, those who have completed the 350 hours of academic training will immediately be able to sit for the CASAC exam. Students will receive their scores and have up to five years to earn the required 2000 hours of work experience to obtain CASAC certification.

Who Should Consider The CMHSAC? 

The CMHSAC was created to meet a number of curricular and programmatic needs in the psychology department at the New School for Social Research (NSSR). Specifically, it is a program that was designed to be particularly attractive and beneficial to:

  1. Those students who do not intend to continue on to doctoral study but would like to significantly enhance their marketability after graduation;
  2. Students who currently work with substance abusing or dually diagnosed populations and who would like to complement their practical experience with formal academic training and credentials; and
  3. Eugene Lang seniors, NSSR MA and PhD students who intend to enter into a career in the substance abuse field.

CMHSAC Program Details 

Admission to Program
There are no separate requirements for admission to the CMHSAC program. All students who have been admitted to general MA study in the Psychology Department are also eligible to enroll in the CMHSAC. However, students will not be considered enrolled in the program until they have completed an enrollment form and submitted it to the Psychology Student Advisors' office. Blank copies of the enrollment form can be obtained from the advisors' office or on the CMHSAC website. There is no deadline for enrolling, and students are free to take any number of the required courses before submitting a formal application. However, students should be aware that until a formal application is submitted, they will not be eligible for fieldwork placements or able to register for the seminar on Ethics.

Advising and Registration
It is extremely important that students confer with the student advisors prior to registering for any of the courses offered in the CMHSAC.

Tuition and Fees
The latest fee schedule can be found on the New School Web site at The New School reserves the right to alter this schedule of fees without notice.

Course Requirements
The CMHSAC degree requirements consist of a total of 30 credits, nine of which are in the area of substance abuse. All of the courses are usually offered once a year. The three required courses for the CMHSAC (Introduction to Substance Abuse Counseling; Advanced Issues in Substance Abuse Counseling; Psychopathology III) are offered during the regular academic year during certain semesters. Please see the CMHSAC Student Handbook 2011 (PDF) for further details.

Eligibility for admission to the doctoral program: It is important to reiterate and emphasize the fact that electing to pursue a CMHSAC degree does not in any way preclude a student from applying for admission to the doctoral program. CMHSAC students who wish to apply to the doctoral program are subject to the same admission requirements that apply to those enrolled in the general MA program. These requirements include: a satisfactory grade point average; passing the comprehensive exam; successfully passing both a MA level research methods course and the Assessment of Individual Differences course; and completing the elementary statistics requirement. However there are some caveats.

Please note the following caveats:

  1. Given the possibility that some students will feel disadvantaged in their ability to take some of the so-called "comps-relevant" courses as electives, students are strongly encouraged to audit as many comps-relevant courses as their schedule allows.
  2. The one-credit Ethics course and the online, two-hour Child Abuse Reporting training are NOT requirements for the CMHSAC, but are necessary for fulfilling the academic requirements for CASAC eligibility.
  3. Consequently, those students who wish to complete all of the academic requirements for the CASAC will need to take the Ethics course, thus increasing their total credits to 31, along with the free, 2-hour online training on Child Abuse Reporting.
    1. Students who wish to apply for admission to the clinical PhD program will also have to take the Research Methods, Intro to Stats and Research Design, and History and Systems courses. Thus, they will not take elective courses but instead will complete one additional "A"-level course.
  4. The Adult Psychopathology course is not part of the required CMHSAC curriculum, but it is required for the CASAC eligibility and is also part of the Clinical MA track.

Description of CASAC Requirements 

The CMHSAC master's degree program by itself does not satisfy all of the CASAC requirements. There are also requirements for work experience and supervised practical experience that must be met either before, during, or after CASAC exam. However, the CASAC academic eligibility requirements (and hence, eligibility for a CASAC-T certificate and sitting for the CASAC exam) can be easily met by taking, in addition to the required CMHSAC courses, Adult Psychopathology, the 1-credit Seminar on Professional Issues and Ethics, and the online Child Abuse Reporting training. Note: A master's degree in psychology is considered the equivalent of 4000 hours of work experience. Consequently, the required amount of work experience for CMHSAC graduates is only one year, rather than the customary three years of full-time paid work. For more information on the CASAC requirements, please consult the CMHSAC handbook or the Student Coordinator for the most recent description. Information is also available at New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) website,

CMHSAC Enrollment Form  (DOC)

Recommended Course Sequence for CMHSAC (DOC)

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