Connie Schaaf (left) is a Chemical Dependency Counseling instructor at TSTC. (Photo courtesy of TSTC.)

(WACO, Texas) – Alishia Davis knew she had to walk the path to sobriety after her struggles with substance abuse nearly cost her everything. One year into her journey, feeling called to help others like herself, she signed up for Texas State Technical College’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program.

“When I signed up, I never knew the impact it would have on my recovery,” Davis said. “TSTC gave me a whole new perspective of my life and helped me grow into the person God wants me to be.”

Now Davis is completing her addiction and substance abuse practicum and expects to receive her Associate of Applied Science degree at the end of the fall semester. She hopes to return to TSTC someday to teach alongside the instructors who gave her back her future.

According to a study conducted by, 78 out of 254 counties in Texas lacked licensed chemical dependency counselors in the year 2021. Stress caused by the pandemic and other factors have contributed to counselor burnout, and counselor shortage rates have spiked exponentially along with an increase in demand for their services.

TSTC’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program is dedicated to filling those vacant positions. The program is offered 100% online, and students can earn either a certificate of completion or an Associate of Applied Science degree. 

For their final course, students must complete a practicum of 300 hours in the field to be eligible for their licensure exam.

“Because we are statewide, that opens up the opportunities so much in terms of locations and experience that you can get in all of the different environments,” said Chemical Dependency Counseling instructor Jamie Thompson.

Thompson, instructor Ivy Delong, and director of curriculum Connie Schaaf are at the heart of the program. Their extensive backgrounds in the nonprofit, therapeutic and rehabilitation communities gave them insight into the growth of substance abuse in modern society. As a result, they have committed themselves to decreasing those rates.

“The number of deaths because of substances — we haven’t ever had numbers like that before,” Delong said. “It’s always been a life-or-death situation, but it truly is a life-or-death situation (today). If we can get individuals into treatment, we may be able to save lives.”

According to the instructors, the public tends to believe that the program only trains counselors to work in correctional institutions. In reality, counselors can be found working anywhere from nonprofit case management to hospitals.

Delong pointed out that the program can also be beneficial to those who already have degrees, such as parole and probation officers.

“We have the opportunity for individuals who may have degrees in other areas to come in and get this specialization that would help them,” Delong said. “It would help them work with their clients and get an understanding of where their clientele came from.”

The instructors will continue to update the program to factor in the rising use of telehealth and the laws pertaining to its use that are currently in development.

According to, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors can earn a median salary of $47,140 a year in Texas. The field was projected to have a growth rate of 28% in the state from 2020 to 2030.

For more information on substance abuse treatment available in Texas, go to

Registration for the spring semester is underway. For more information on TSTC, visit

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