The Pierce College Addiction Studies program offers a variety of courses designed for students to get a California Addiction Treatment Counselor (CCAT) certificate upon receiving their associate’s degree.
Some of the courses offered under the program include Understanding Addiction and Counseling, Addiction Counselor Training, Group Skills for Addiction Counselors, and Sociological Aspects of Addiction.
“The Advisory Committee moved the Addiction Studies program from Mission College to Pierce College in the fall of 2001. The move was accomplished by the Advisory Committee, through the offices of the presidents, of Mission and Pierce Colleges,” according to the Addiction Studies overview and history.
People come to the Addiction Studies program to get help and to help others with addictions.
“My goal as a helping professional is to bring about awareness, acceptance, and ultimately action (acceptance of addiction and codependency in our lives and in society),” said Michelle Castro, who is currently taking a Sociological Aspects of Addiction class.
Castro is a certified addiction treatment counselor.
“I will stay in the addiction field, specializing in intimacy and addiction and healing our relationships in ourselves and others,” Castro said.
Castro graduated from California State University Northridge (CSUN) with a degree in psychology. She will be going for her master’s degree in psychology and her doctorate in psychology.
“I was battling my disease when I was at CSUN. My drinking started getting progressively worse. I thought that as a college kid. that is just what you do,” Castro said. “ I experimented with drugs in college, but nothing heavy.”
After college her addiction progressed, and she ended up enrolling in an outpatient treatment facility.
“We had group therapy, drug testing and met with a counselor,” Castro said. “But I wasn’t ready to receive the treatment yet, there was no surrender. I was complying to family pressure.”
Castro said that she maintained two and a half years of sobriety, though she did not follow the program’s suggestions.
“I relapsed for seven years until the disease really kicked in,” Castro said.
Castro interned for nine months in rehabilitation in Tijuana, Mexico and started the second group of Alcoholics Anonymous for women in that city.
“I came to Pierce and started studying addiction,” Castro said. “I started falling in love with addiction treatment as a career, it is my absolute passion.”
Castro graduated the Addiction Studies program at Pierce in May 2011. She made the dean’s list and the President’s Honors list. She plans on going forward in the field of addiction specializing in codependency.
“I like the reconstruction of lives torn apart by addiction,” Castro said. “One addict affects 40 people around them, friends, family, stranger’s. Putting it into perspective, if a person is under the influence driving, the number is expediential of those affected.”
A recent Marin Institute Study found that the cost to the state of California’s alcohol-related injuries, accidents and deaths is $20 million annually.
Kevin Hale, who is graduating with a CCAT certificate from Pierce in May, has been in the Addiction Studies program at Pierce for two years. He interns at the Grand View Foundation’s Treatment Facility for Men in Pasadena.
“I love the program, because it not only teaches us treatment, skills, and attitudes to become a counselor, but most of all it taught me about myself. It has helped me with my personnel recovery,” Hale said. “The program is geared to help ourselves then we can help others; that is why I love this program.”
Liam Williams has been in the Addiction Studies program for a year. He sets up the audiovisual equipment for Dr. Crossen’s classes. He receives funds from the California State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to pay school expenses and help him become employed.
“I feel fantastic, happy, joyful and free,” Williams said. “I plan on long term abstinence and to make restitution for harms done and to carry a message of hope. You don’t have to go on believing there is no other way out.”
Dr. James Crossen, an instructor of psychology and statistics, is the program’s faculty advisor.
“It’s great that people have a good heart and good intentions, but you need professional skills and knowledge of the techniques and dynamics of group counseling, motivational interviewing, and the philosophical base for what we do,” he said.