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Study plan - Master's Programme in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Care

Autumn 2023

The master's Degree Program in Mental Health and Addiction Work is an interdisciplinary program where students will acquire in-depth knowledge about the connections between mental health, biological, psychological, social, economic, material, cultural, and societal factors. The program focuses on challenges related to individuals' connections within families and communities, and on understanding the relationships between challenging life experiences and mental health. The program aims to equip students with the ability to provide qualified, effective, and up-to-date assistance to individuals struggling with mental health disorders and substance use issues, as well as their families.

The program extends over three years and amounts to a total of 120 credits in accordance with Section 3 of the Regulation on Requirements for a Master's Degree. The first year is a full-time program (60 credits) following the "Curriculum for Further Education in Mental Health Work" from 2005, leading to a qualification as a Mental Health Worker. The second and third years (a combined total of 60 credits) are organized as part-time studies and consist of specialization in theory of science and methodology, as well as the completion of an independent scientific project in the form of a master's thesis.

Target Audience
The target audience for this program includes healthcare and social work professionals who wish to pursue a master's degree to enhance their qualifications for working with individuals facing mental health and substance use related health issues.

Admission Requirements
A bachelor's degree in healthcare and social work.

Minimum of 1 year relevant professional experience after completing education.

Applicants with other relevant education may be considered for admission.

Learning outcomes

A candidate who has completed the qualification shall possess the following comprehensive learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills, and general competence:

The candidate...

  • possesses in-depth knowledge about human susceptibility to the development of mental health, substance use related, and physical health issues in the context of culture, life course, challenging life experiences, and material circumstances (K1)
  • has advanced knowledge about various professional and international perspectives and understanding of mental disorders and substance use issues, as well as profound knowledge of integrated treatment, interdisciplinary collaboration, and coordination of support services
  • has profound knowledge about various perspectives on mental health and substance use issues, and understands the connections between mental and physical health/illness, and can analytically consider how different perspectives influence treatment and organization of service delivery
  • possesses in-depth knowledge of communication and collaboration processes and "best practice" in the field of healthcare and substance use work
  • has in-depth knowledge of philosophy of science , research methods, and research processes in general, particularly related to the field of mental health and substance use work

The candidate...

  • can document and communicate the need for mental and physical health services to/from individuals with mental health and substance use issues
  • can provide professional assistance to individuals with various degrees of mental health and substance use related health problems, their families, professional and private networks, and support systems, based on service user involvement and equality
  • can stimulate and contribute to the development of interdisciplinary and interagency collaboration, acknowledge and utilize the expertise of other professional groups in a committed collaboration
  • has developed personal competence, creativity, and courage
  • can acquire relevant knowledge about mental health and substance use work, and critically evaluate sources
  • can conduct an independent and delimited research project in accordance with fundamental ethical and methodological principles to address current issues in practice

General Competence:

The candidate...

  • can convey current research, critically evaluate sources, and contribute to the implementation and application of research in practical work
  • can critically reflect on their own professional competence and development, and apply their own field's distinctive contributions to mental health and addiction work
  • can critically assess service users/patients' and healthcare and social workers' rights and duties, and analyze ethical dilemmas related to professional practice
  • can identify political guidelines and frameworks for the field and can analyze and convey how these influence practice within the field
  • can analyze and critically evaluate how the understanding of mental health and substance use related health issues is related to physical health and cultural and societal factors.


Practice is a vital component of the Master's program in Mental Health and Substance Use Work. The practice course takes place in the second semester and is worth 15 credit points. The practice is conducted in accordance with the Framework Plan for Mental Health and Subtance Use Work 2005, Section 4. The practice placements are linked to areas of work where professional practice within mental health and substance use issues is central. In the practice course, the professional field serves as the primary learning arena during the education.

Emphasis is placed on training in relational competence and skilled competent professional approaches in relation to patients/users, relatives, and other professionals. Analysis and reflection on ethical dilemmas in professional practice are central.

The practice course is situated in units that have supervisors with expertise in Mental Health and Substace Use Work or equivalent fields. Practice supervisors should hold at least a 75% position, primarily related to patient/service user-related tasks. During the practice course, one of the university's instructors serves as the contact teacher for each student. The student is responsible for their own learning and are required to develop their own learning outcome document during the first two weeks of the practice.


Reflection and lifelong learning are the foundation of the master's program. In order to achieve the learning outcomes, teaching and working methods vary between lectures and student-active approaches. Through various didactic approaches, we aim to increase reflection, stimulate academic discussion, and enhance analytical and critical competence. There will be a particular emphasis on a continuous interchange between theory, presentation of current research, and practice, challenging students to structure and formulate academic questions related to professional practice. The content of the subjects builds on each other, enabling knowledge and skills to develop progressively. Throughout the entire program, teaching methods that promote knowledge-based practice are utilized, where students integrate research, theoretical knowledge, experiential knowledge, and patient knowledge. The subjects will largely be based on students' own reflections through lectures, group work, communication workshops, skill training, process guidance, and practical exercises. These methods provide training in interpreting theoretical texts, research, and practical situations in the best possible way based on knowledge, experience, and research.

Teaching methods include plenary lectures and online lectures, student seminars, group work, guidance for written assignments, and self-study. Through student-active learning methods, students are expected to take responsibility for their own and their peers' academic development and learning in order to achieve the learning outcomes. Discussions, arguments, and oral presentations are emphasized in the teaching. Critical reflection on the connections between theoretical perspectives and professional practice is emphasized, and students are expected to apply experiences and reflections from practice. The program is therefore designed for students to work both individually and in groups. We use itslearning as a study support system. Students must have their own PC with internet access. Proficiency with standard word processing software and the internet is essential.

All mandatory teaching will be recorded.

The university college engages in international collaboration. International partners will contribute, and in such cases, the teaching will be conducted in English. Students must have good written and oral skills in both Norwegian and English.

Required progression

To promote students' progression and achievement of learning outcomes, there are requirements for study progression.

All mandatory assignments must be approved before students are eligible to take the exam in the subject. The content and scope of mandatory assignments are outlined in the course description.

In order to register for the exam in PHA508, all subjects in the first year of study (PHA501 - 506) as well as MAMET1P must be successfully completed. Please refer to the course descriptions for more specific information.


The Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (Høgskolen på Vestlandet) places a strong emphasis on internationalization. For students enrolled in the Master's program in Mental Health and Addiction Work, opportunities for student exchange will be provided during specified periods in the second and third semesters. Applications can be submitted for exchanges both for practical placements and theoretical subjects.