The Washington Department of Health approved a new educational pathway for mental health professionals.

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Substance abuse, and opioid usage in particular, has made headlines across Washington state and the nation. In 2016, Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order directing state agencies to address opioid abuse as a public health crisis, evidencing the severity of the need.

“Members of our communities have experienced or will experience unnecessary barriers when attempting to access treatment for mental health and substance-use disorders,” says Dr. Ellen Carruth, chair of counselor education programs at City University of Seattle. “Some of these barriers include inadequate insurance coverage, inaccessible treatment centers or providers, disparity between addiction and mental health treatment facilities, and inadequate treatment when compared to treatment for other serious medical conditions.”

Ellen Carruth (City University of Seattle)
Ellen Carruth (City University of Seattle)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration currently estimates that mental health and substance-use disorders are co-occurring in approximately 8 million American adults. To increase access to services, the Washington Department of Health approved a new educational pathway for mental health professionals hoping to provide co-occurring treatment for clients.

“The Chemical Dependency Professional credential allows helping professionals to expand their scope of practice to include treatment of chemical dependency,” says Carruth. “This is particularly important for those of us working in Washington state.”

Carruth has seen firsthand the difference that can be made when individuals have access to the care and treatment that they need.

“As a mental health counselor, I’ve had the opportunity to support people in their individual journeys toward wellness,” says Carruth. “Being able to walk alongside my clients as they learn to implement new skills and ways of thinking about themselves is a privilege.”

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To help meet the demand for more qualified professionals, CityU created a Graduate Certificate in Chemical Dependency Counseling that allows master’s-level mental health professionals to complete three online courses that satisfy the educational requirement for Washington state’s Chemical Dependency Professional certification.

The educational requirement for CDP certification is successful completion of fifteen quarter or ten semester college credits in courses specific to alcohol and drug addicted individuals, including survey of addiction, treatment of addiction, pharmacology, individual group addiction counseling, and more.

Students who choose to pursue CDP certification in order to aid individuals struggling with complex mental health and chemical dependency issues benefit from the expertise and experience of educators like Carruth.

“One of my favorite professional activities is clinical supervision,” says Carruth. “I am able to use my experiences as a practitioner as well as my understanding of teaching and learning to support students in their professional development.”

There is a strong need for qualified substance abuse and mental health counselors in Washington state. If you’re interested in supporting others through a career in mental health counseling, learn more about CityU programs at or by calling 888-422-4898.