Minot State University offers the only Bachelor’s degree program in Addiction Studies in North Dakota.
Nationwide, there is almost always a shortage of Licensed Addiction Counselors.
Students at MSU will be among the next generation of LACs to help and heal communities across our state and beyond.
Vicki Michels is the director of the Addiction Studies program at MSU.
“It’s a career in which you really can see the impact of what you’re doing,” she said. “Not only helping the person that’s in front of you but also all of their family members, their friends that are around them and the communities.”
She said the number of students in the program has more than doubled in the past 10 years compared to the early 2000s.
Over time, more and more people are becoming interested, but that’s not the only thing that’s changed.
Michels said, “Earlier in the field it was very confrontational, at times shaming, and now it’s much more supportive and treating it as a chronic illness rather than expecting people to in three weeks be in recovery and then not need any support or very little support.”
A vast majority of her students go on to become LACs in North Dakota. For Joni Mattern, it’s personal. She recently celebrated six years in recovery.
“With the second chance that I’ve been given, I would like to use that to help other people,” Mattern said.
It was in prison that she made the decision to change her life and the lives of others.
“My part is to tell them that the bad in me sees the bad in you,” she said. “And we can connect because the good in me sees the good in you.”
Her classmate, Teri Anderson was drawn to Addiction Studies because she, too, wants to make a difference.
“Addiction is a disease, it’s nondiscriminatory,” Anderson said. “It can happen to anybody at any time and I think that we all just kind of have to be more kind and open-minded.”
These students and the 36 others currently enrolled in MSU’s Addiction Studies program will go on to change the lives of many people.
However, they said that the rest of society can make a big difference through education and acceptance of addiction as a disease, rather than a decision.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 22 percent increase in employment opportunities for addiction counselors from 2018 to 2028.
That compares to the average growth rate of 5 percent for all occupations.