New addiction counseling graduates enter workforce amid pandemic and rising need for services

Dr. Peter Hayden speaks at Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies commencement
Learn About Hazelden Betty Ford

Center City, Minn. (May 5, 2021) — Addiction counselors are public servants who save lives and are increasingly needed as communities across America confront rising substance use and mental health treatment needs, said Peter Hayden, PhD, keynote speaker for the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies' spring commencement.

"You may not know it but in the course of your career, using the tools and skills you learned through this program, you will help save countless lives," Dr. Hayden, founder and president of Minneapolis-based Turning Point Inc., told the graduates. "Think of the work of counseling as a service to the community. You do this work because you love the people you serve and you love the community they come out of." 

In his keynote at April 23 virtual commencement, Dr. Hayden encouraged graduates to find catalysts—people or perhaps conversations—that motivate them to stay passionate and continue serving their community. He also shared his personal connection to recovery and the instinct that led him to found Turning Point, a culturally-specific addiction treatment organization for the African American community, 45 years ago. Dr. Hayden, who chairs the National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council, has earned many recognitions for influencing the design of effective long-term community health programming, including the Martin Luther King "Legends" award presented by General Mills.

"Dr. Hayden—through his teaching, leadership and counseling—has positively influenced the lives of thousands," said Dr. Valerie Slaymaker, chief academic officer and provost of the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, part of the nonprofit Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation's largest nonprofit provider of addiction treatment, co-occurring mental health care, recovery resources and related prevention and education services.

Hayden, whose organization Turning Point recently announced a broader collaboration with Hazelden Betty Ford, was joined on the virtual commencement stage by student speakers Maria Morales Abaroa from Guadalajara, Jalisco in Mexico, and Valerie Rasche from Edwardsville, Ill.

The ceremony conferred 35 master's degrees in "Addiction Counseling: Integrated Recovery for Co-occurring Disorders" and "Addiction Counseling: Advanced Practice." Most of the graduates will go on to establish careers in counseling or a related area of the addiction treatment and recovery field. The ongoing opioid overdose epidemic and broader addiction crisis, compounded over the past year by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, have increased demand for counselors in behavioral health, an industry already projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies has granted more than 1,000 master's degrees and 60 certificates in addiction counseling. To date, the school has educated students from 47 states, three territories, and 43 countries, including Ireland, Iceland, Egypt, Guatemala, and New Zealand.

As the longest continuous, accredited provider of substance use counselor training in the United States, the graduate school offers addiction counseling courses online and on-campus in Center City and St. Paul, Minn. Virtual Open Houses are scheduled through 2021.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction.