Substance Abuse Counseling Bachelor’s Degree Instructor Inspires Students Across the Country

Dr. George B. Richardson became inspired to understand substance use disorder (SUD) because of personal experiences. Clinical work with adolescents and adults in treatment for SUDs would further his interests.

George’s passion for helping others also came from research work, having authored and contributed to several journal articles relating to SUD and addiction behaviors. “I became a researcher because I didn’t think we understood SUD well enough. And this is still my belief,” he says.

Higher Education Achievements Leads to UC Role

SACN Faculty
Associate Professor Dr. Richardson is an interdisciplinary researcher focused on evaluating the validity of theoretical constructs, developmental theories, and scores derived from psychosocial measures.

George’s educational achievements include a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling, and a Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision.

Since the Fall of 2011, George has been an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati (UC), where he oversees the online Bachelor of Science (BS) in Substance Abuse Counseling from

our College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. “I coordinate our undergraduate substance abuse counseling program. I also teach and mentor doctoral students in our counselor education and supervision program,” he says.

UC Online’s substance abuse counseling program prepares students for careers where they provide counseling services to individuals struggling with SUDs.

George considers the program a good fit for people with strong interpersonal skills, motivation to help others, and curiosity about the underlying causes of human behaviors, including substance use. He calls the program ideal for people with an associate degree in psychology or substance abuse who seek a promotion or simply wish to expand their scope of practice.

Anyone who offers substance abuse counseling (SAC) or related services can benefit from studying substance abuse counseling online because UC’s program provides the necessary knowledge, competencies, and skills — and it’s a highly personalized and flexible way to earn a bachelor’s degree. “What you learn here can open up new career possibilities by helping you earn a higher level of licensure,” says George.

UC’s instructors hold behavioral science degrees at the master’s level or higher with extensive practice serving individuals with substance use disorders.

Top-Tier Program Led by Experienced Faculty

Carnegie Classification has long placed UC among only 141 institutions in the Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity (R1) category. George says UC receives $1.3 billion in active external funding for research spread across nearly 1,500 awards and more than 1,000 faculty members. He believes students benefit greatly from studying at UC. “They learn from professors at the cutting edge of their fields who are creating discoveries about our world,” he says. “Our faculty studies various topics related to substance use disorders, including long-term recovery.”

UC’s instructors hold behavioral science degrees at the master’s level or higher with extensive practice serving individuals with SUDs. Most are active in the field, bringing real-world experience into the classroom. Many have been teaching students in this program for more than a decade.

George says earning a SAC degree at UC is the pathway to a rewarding career in counseling people with SUDs. “If you’re committed to helping people who struggle with SUDs, you should look into our program,” he says.

UC Online students can listen to lectures while driving to work and complete assignments at any time within the weeks they are due.
– Dr. George Richardson, Associate Professor and Substance Abuse Counseling Instructor

Set Your Study Schedule with Asynchronous Learning

Many students choose UC Online’s BS in Substance Abuse Counseling program because the fully online study environment works well for people with full-time jobs. However, adding school to an already busy schedule can present challenges. But George says students can be successful, juggling life outside school, if they have the right motivation and time management skills.

Online learning doesn’t require students to meet at a specific time for class. Instead, students complete their course requirements at convenient times. “Students can listen to lectures while driving to work and complete assignments at any time within the weeks they are due. In addition, there are group projects requiring students to meet, but there is no set meeting time for class,” George says.

Students interact in class discussions and often pair up to study. Some become friends, and many stay connected throughout their careers. To facilitate these connections, our students can access email addresses and message each other through the UC Online website. “It’s easy to communicate with others,” George says. “Students share questions within course sites via discussion boards, by email, and in scheduled virtual meetings.”

Courses cover core functions of SAC: screening, intake, orientation, assessment, treatment planning, counseling, case management, crisis intervention, client education, referral, reporting and recordkeeping, and consultation.

Curriculum Focuses on 12 Core Functions

UC Online’s substance abuse counseling degree may be completed in as little as two years if students have already earned an associate degree in addiction studies or similar programs. George explains the threshold for being considered a full-time student is 12 credits per semester, so full-time students should expect to spend 36 hours total completing course requirements. He recommends following the rule of thumb for each credit students take; they should expect to spend one hour in class and two hours studying.

After students meet the general education requirements, they’ll find the bachelor’s program curriculum focused almost exclusively on SUD etiology and treatment. Courses cover 12 core functions of substance abuse counseling, including screening, intake, orientation, assessment, treatment planning, counseling, case management, crisis intervention, client education, referral, reporting and recordkeeping, and consultation.

“We’re moving toward providing long-term recovery support instead of just acute care; greater integration of medication into treatment; greater inter-professional collaboration in treatment settings; and greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion,” George says. “And our curriculum covers these areas. For example, the long-term maintenance strategies course covers cutting-edge research on recovery, and our introductory and advanced courses cover multicultural counseling in diverse settings.”


Motivating Others Through Research 

Students wanting more interaction with faculty may get involved in research or service opportunities. UC funds student involvement in faculty research and student-initiated projects to prepare the next generation of researchers. This funding enables our students to conduct studies and travels to conferences to present their findings.

Recently, George received a grant from the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study alcohol use disorder recovery. He describes the long-term goal to facilitate efforts to improve recovery-oriented care systems. The objective of this project is to evaluate the validity of broadened definitions of alcohol use disorder (AUD) recovery. This extends beyond remission to include improvements in well-being, health, community integration, and more — and spans nearly 25 years from adolescence to mid-adulthood.

“We’ll examine whether changes in components of broadened recovery definitions occur in concert with changes in alcohol use disorder symptoms, as well as examine whether recovery has the same meaning across subgroups in the population,” George says.

Study results will facilitate efforts to develop comprehensive measures that capture the multidimensional and dynamic nature of the AUD recovery process across development. Ultimately, this continuum of research will have a significant, positive impact by facilitating efforts to estimate recovery prevalence, elucidate its etiology, adapt services to subgroups of alcohol users, evaluate recovery-oriented systems of care, and, by following participants beginning in adolescence, explain how early recovery trajectories might be altered to improve health and well-being across the lifespan.

UC Online’s BS in Substance Abuse Counseling program is ranked
as a Best Online Program by US News & World Report (2022).

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

In the U.S. and worldwide, addiction and substance abuse continue to increase dramatically. As a result, the need for educated, qualified substance abuse counselors has never been greater.

UC’s 100% online Substance Abuse Counseling bachelor’s degree program, ranked #4 as the Best Online Addictions Counseling Bachelor’s Degree (, prepares you for a fulfilling career in this dynamic profession. When you learn to combine verified and innovative techniques, you’re equipped to help people overcome their dependencies.

If you’re ready to learn more about our substance abuse counseling program, connect with a UC Online Enrollment Services Advisor today. Complete this brief online form to connect with a member of our team. (Sidenote: If you live in Ohio, our Substance Abuse Counseling degree meets the requirements to become a certified counselor in the state.)

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