Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School: A Knowledge Hub on the Web for Future Leaders in Addiction Counseling

The Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School aims to educate future leaders in addiction counseling who provide evidence-based integrated care for substance use and co-occurring disorders. They focus on training students in the use of the most up-to-date evidence-based practices and foster a scientific and open environment for inquiry and learning anchored in academic freedom and scholarship. 

The Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School (HBFGS) for more than 50 years has primed addiction counselors who help individuals and families reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. They are the longest continuous provider of addiction counselor training in the United States. Educational quality has always been HBFGS’s top priority. Their online program was developed using the “Online Learning Consortium’s Quality Scorecard” as a standard. They have built their program from the ground up based on the scorecard and continue to conduct a thorough annual appraisal to make sure rigorous standards are met.

All individual courses are designed to meet ‘Quality Matters’ standards. These benchmarks keep the learning experience of students a top priority. HBFGS also ensures that the students are prepared to succeed in an online graduate environment. Each student in the online program is required to enroll in a four-week orientation course, led by HBFGS’s Director of Online Education. This orientation utilizes all the online program’s core technologies so students can begin their coursework ready to learn and are able to focus on engaging in the course content.

Outstanding Academic Initiatives

Accredited by ‘The Higher Learning Commission’, HBFGS offers the “Master of Arts in Addiction Studies: Integrated Recovery for Co-Occurring Disorders” as their online degree. To keep the students motivated, HBFGS helps in building a strong community of learning with each other and with their teaching faculty.

In their first term, students attend a week-long residency on campus which builds a conference model to let the students learn from many faculty members. Along with this, they return to the campus during their last semester for additional residency experience and interact with more seasoned students who pass on the insights and inspire them to complete the program.

Most students in the program also participate in internships, during which they meet weekly with a faculty member and discuss what they are learning and how they are growing as clinicians. These meetings make the learning practical. Also, during this the Grad School also keeps in close contact with the students throughout their program.

Unique Approaches to make e-Learning more Effective

In an increasingly technology-integrated culture, learning to use new technologies is natural to some and intimidating to others. For all, however, growing in this area is a real professional asset.

One gift of online learning is the way it emphasizes the development of communication skills. Most online programs rely heavily on written discussions to facilitate interaction between students and their instructors and engagement with the educational content. This multifaceted approach helps students develop written communication skills that will be vital after they graduate and enter their professional lives.

Reliance on asynchronous discussions, however, is not the only aspect of creating effective communicators. HBFGS also utilize synchronous video conferences, which challenge students to develop 21st century communication skills – using technology to communicate visually in real time. Using such tools, online students develop communication skills that serve them both personally and professionally.

Effective online learning requires leveraging the communication tools readily available and wisely incorporating new tools, not to embrace a fad, but in service of student learning. Efficient online learning also requires meaningful engagement throughout the learning community (among students and faculty) around the core concepts in the program. To do this well, HBFGS strives to provide continuity between courses so that students know how to dig in and participate quickly as they transition to each next course. In addition, at the same time, they provide some degree of flexibility and variety so that courses do not feel like stale, “cookie cutter” molds of one another.

Striking the right balance is crucial to the engagement of learning community.

An Accomplished Advisor

Kristin Anderson, the Director of Online Education at HBFGS has more than 20 years of experience working with online graduate education (going back to the days of dial-up modems). She is committed to ongoing innovation and collaboration with her colleagues so that the latest technology is used in to facilitate student learning and meaningful human connections. Her creativity and imagination is coupled with her strategic thinking so that new ideas are closely integrated into the overall program. This provides students with continuity and faculty with flexibility.

Kristin’s focus is consistently on the success of her students – both in terms of academic achievement and personal well-being. For students to succeed, Kristin recognizes that faculty needs to be equipped and empowered to lead their courses, and not just facilitate them. They need freedom to teach in a manner that resonates with their deepest educational values. She helps them use technology appropriately and find ways to bring their presence into the online learning environment.

Future Aspects of the Students

As addiction increases in severity and complexity in our society, the future of addiction treatment will increasingly demand well-trained counselors who are equipped to work within integrated healthcare teams as they treat individuals with co-occurring disorders. The students of Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School, having studied the relationship of addiction to mental health conditions from the start are ready to be actively involved in bringing hope and healing to people impacted by addiction and co-occurring disorders, and to be leaders in the field.

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