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The Chemical Dependency Program
Rio Salado College
Dream. Click! Become.

Chemical dependency is a psychological and sometimes physical need to use alcohol or other drugs that is not repressed even in the face of negative consequences. It is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors that influence its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. Chemical dependency is a disease in addition to and separate from other medical problems that may be associated with it, and all evidence points to the fact that it can happen to anyone.

Chemical dependency is chronic. A person who has developed the disease of chemical dependency will have it for life. This condition can't be cured, but it can be treated. Chemical dependency is progressive. The physical, emotional, and social problems associated with chemical dependency continue to get worse unless alcohol and/or drug use is stopped. Those problems are often cumulative and appear to progress as the use of chemicals continues. The definitions of chemical dependency have emerged over time and development of treatment. Today options abound, but fundamental practices and support services have been a foundation since the inception of what are considered the first modern and formal chemical dependency programs.

History of Chemical Dependency Programs

In 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), was formally established as a spiritual recovery program and a path to sobriety. William Griffith Wilson, or Bill W., a self-proclaimed alcoholic, established a 12-step philosophy and support-session format that has grown to serve more than 100,000 groups and over two million members in 150 countries. For almost 70 years, AA has stood as a premier faith-based model of recovery for alcohol abuse.

Outside of AA circles, the name Bill W. may not be known, but it was during the 1980s when former U.S. first lady Betty Ford, shared personal struggles with chemical dependency and altered a social mindset forever. Changing stereotypes of chemically dependent individuals, the Betty Ford Center was initially established as a treatment center that underscored the special needs of women with chemical addiction. The center now operates facility services for both men and women, with a special emphasis on family outreach to serve the more than 38 million U.S. children living with a family member addicted to alcohol or other drugs.

As with public awareness, so goes policy, and today 47 of the 50 states have adopted legislation to support rehabilitation services, programs, and outreach models. Although many rules and provisions are currently enforced in other states, beginning July 1, 2004 , the State of Arizona mandates that all behavioral health professionals who provide psychotherapy, including chemical dependency counselors, must be licensed through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. Legislative regulations, a growing need for service, and demand for trained and experienced professionals in this critical field are the foundations of development for the Rio Salado Chemical Dependency Program (CDP).

The new Arizona licensing law offers three levels of certification for substance abuse counselors:

1. Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor

Master’s or higher degree in a behavioral science with an emphasis on counseling and two years of supervised work experience in substance abuse counseling, including 100 hours of clinical supervision

2. Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor (LSAC)

Bachelor’s degree in a behavioral science with an emphasis on counseling, and at least two years of supervised work experience in substance abuse counseling; or master’s or higher degree in a behavioral science with an emphasis on counseling – a stepping stone to Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor for those going on to get their Masters degree

 3. Licensed Substance Abuse Technician

Associate of applied science degree in chemical dependency with an emphasis on counseling (Technicians will practice under the supervision of a LSAC)


People Helping People, One Step at a Time

The Chemical Dependency Program (CDP) is designed to train practitioners in the skills necessary for assisting chemically dependent people towards alleviating that dependency. Under the direct supervision of an experienced and licensed professional, the CDP blends a web-based instructional learning format and real-time application experiences. The courses provide students with theory, research, and knowledge of the field by focusing on the development of counseling skills specific to the needs of chemically dependent individuals. Through supervised instruction, CDP students integrate experiential and practical applications in the substance-abuse fields, while measuring their relationship to social work, counseling, mental health, psychology, and rehabilitation, as applied through experiential application.

As an online paraprofessional program of study, the curriculum meets the state licensing requirements for formal certification or an A.A.S. degree. In addition, the courses can be offered for practitioners and integrated as continuing education units (CEUs) for professional development.

Examples of the course topics include

  • Foundations of Chemical Dependency;
  • Professional Ethics in Counseling the Chemically Dependent;
  • AIDS and Chemical Dependency;
  • Biological Systems/Pharmacology of the Chemically Dependent;
  • Theory and Techniques in the Treatment of the Chemically Dependent;
  • Family Dynamics and Chemical Dependency; and
  • Recovery and Relapse of the Chemically Dependent.



 By professional definition, chemical dependency is a chronic disease, treatable but lingering. Prevention is only one measure of treatment, and the cycle of treatment, beyond abstinence, must also include elements of service for relapse. Over 20 million Americans fall into one or more categories of chemical dependency, and the demand for experienced counselors and licensed professionals is projected to grow dramatically each decade.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), is one of the fastest growing federal agencies and recognizes a serious shortage in chemical dependency counselors and addiction experts. In 2004, SAMSA announced a series of program priorities to include “cultivating systems at the national, state, and local levels that are responsive not only to current trends in addiction treatment and substance abuse prevention.” In response to SAMSA agency mandates, Congressional appropriations have been allocated to expand service capacity in targeted treatment and prevention areas, and to identify and address emerging factors that inevitably will have a direct impact on the shape and character of future mental health and substance abuse service delivery systems.

To date, the Chemical Dependency Program at Rio Salado has served over 1,000 students with this effective specialty curriculum. Through Project SAIL, this model of content and professional development service is now offered to local colleges and community organizations that hope to bring education, treatment, and expanded services to meet local needs and social issues with proven expertise.

For more information on The Chemical Dependency Program at Rio Salado, contact Kirk Bowden

To preview Project SAIL programs and courses and learn how to participate, visit the SAIL website.

Rio Salado is a Maricopa Community College. The Maricopa County Community College District is an EEO/AA institution.



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