Montana State University

MSU online addiction counseling program helps fill need

July 1, 2015 -- MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN – From across Montana and the country, graduate students with a passion for helping others overcome the pain and toll of addictions are enrolling in an online graduate certificate program through Montana State University.

According to a recent report, Montana ranks at the very top of the list of states with the highest percentage of residents who are dependent on or abuse alcohol. Couple that with vast distances between Montana towns, and a large number of people with addictions have difficulty finding the help they need.

The Addiction Counseling online program was launched in 2009 when Jill Thorngren (then associate dean of MSU’s College of Education, Health and Human Development) became aware of Montana’s staggering addiction problem and serious shortage of licensed addiction providers. She felt strongly that MSU, as the state’s land-grant university, had a commitment to help fill the gap.

Montana resident Glenda Gosey found MSU’s certificate while searching for a program that could accommodate her busy work and personal life. As a full-time student, mother to a young child and caregiver to an older relative, Gosey needed a flexible learning environment. She said she was drawn to the counseling profession after suffering from addiction herself earlier in her life. Having encountered many people who offered little hope, Gosey said a counselor assured her she could turn her life around, which she did.

“I wanted to become a counselor so that I can demonstrate that it is possible to do anything, regardless of a person’s past,” she said. “I also feel I can empathize with addiction clients. I understand where they are or where they have been. I don’t believe a client could tell me anything that would shock me or cause me to view them in a negative way.”

Gosey said her dream is eventually to practice addiction counseling in her hometown of Darby. Currently, community members must travel to another town for services.

She said MSU’s program fit her needs and that she enjoyed all her online classes and instructors.

“Many of the professors go the extra mile to help students feel connected to the classroom,” she said.

Chris Quarto of Tennessee said he found MSU’s program while looking for online options that would allow him to specialize in addictions counseling while maintaining his dual career as a professor at Middle Tennessee State University and a psychologist in private practice. Quarto, 54, said he’s served in the mental health field for many years and was seeking foundational coursework so he could provide counseling to people suffering from alcohol and drug addiction.

“Montana State University’s program was attractive to me, as it offered the core courses I was looking for at a very reasonable cost,” Quarto said. Quarto said all of his courses had been valuable, but pointed out a few particular experiences that resonated with him, including a behavior reduction assignment, in which students were asked to give up something they really liked (Quarto chose chocolate), then keep a log of thoughts and feelings pertaining to the experience.

Another graduate of the program, Leah Dahlin of Bozeman, said she was drawn to expand her education after working as a school counselor in a rural school and encountering many families that struggled
with addiction.

Dahlin said her online course in pharmacology was particularly helpful, as it gave her a much better understanding of her students’ medications and side effects.

“I enjoy continuing my education and feel that taking courses like these helps me be a stronger, competent and more professional counselor,” she said. “I had competent instructors, the courses were challenging, and it was well worth my time.”

Dahlin currently works as a school counselor for the Bridger Alternative Program at Bozeman High School.

MSU’s Addiction Counseling graduate certificate program is open to students with a bachelor’s degree in any field. Pre-requisites for licensure by the state vary depending on each incoming student’s background. The program is overseen by Katey Franklin, who is also director of MSU’s Human Development Clinic. Sarah Hendrikx of Extended University serves as program manager.

Students who wish to enroll in the program for fall semester, must apply for admittance by July 15. The spring semester deadline is Nov. 15, and the summer 2016 deadline is April 15.

Contact: Katey Franklin, (406) 994-5993,