A second career and a new lease on fighting addiction
ASU grad Cynthia Bleiler finds true passion in helping those suffering from substance-use disorders
Cynthia Bleiler, who is originally from Pennsylvania, dreamed about eventually living in Arizona and helping people overcome addiction.
Bleiler, who recently completed the online graduate certificate in addiction and substance use related disorders from Arizona State University's Department of Psychology, realized this was a passion of hers when her courses were all she could think about and studying was no longer a chore — it was training for her future.
According to the Department of Labor, those born in the latter years of the baby boomer generation (1957-1964) worked on average 12 jobs by age 54 and over 50% expressed disappointment with previous careers. It isn’t unusual for people to try a new career that is closer aligned to a personal passion after age 50, as is the case for Bleiler.
“I never had the opportunity to get an education, but now I'm a full-time student!” Bleiler said. “I’ve worked the last 10 to 15 years in various customer service and experience roles, but I always knew there was more to life.”
She endured a divorce, finished raising her daughter and finally had time to focus on her dream of getting an education. Bleiler said that so many people she knew had experienced some level of addiction and with the pandemic, people were struggling. When she came across the program at ASU, she knew that she had the chance to make a change.
“I decided it was time for me. I got my bachelor’s degree in psychology and addiction, and I decided there’s no stopping me now,” Bleiler said. “Addiction is hard because everyone is different, but I knew I wanted to be there to make a difference.”
Bleiler plans on working as a clinician in the community, eventually planning on becoming a licensed independent substance abuse counselor after she completes her master’s degree and the practicum-hour requirement.
An estimated 41 million people met the criteria for needing substance abuse treatment in 2020, and only 1 million of those people received treatment at a specialized facility. Of the 40 million who didn’t, 38 million felt that they didn’t need treatment in spite of meeting the diagnostic criteria, according to a report for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“It was something that I felt like I could make a difference, and I always say saving a life, one person at a time. Addiction is an open field with so much need, and there are a lot of people that need someone who won’t judge them but enables them to be who they truly are,” said Bleiler.
This fall, ASU is expanding its addiction program. In addition to the certificate program, a new two-year online master’s degree in addiction psychology will be offered. This expansion includes a practicum experience, wherein students will provide addiction treatment, supervised by licensed addiction counselors.
When Bleiler received an email from Professor Matt Meier, the director of the program, detailing the expansion, she was ecstatic.
“It's just a feeling that you get everywhere. It's like when you fall in love for the first time, and you get butterflies in your stomach and you just can't wait to be with that person again — it's that feeling,” she said. “It feels like everything is just lining up perfectly for me. I can’t wait to continue my degree and use evidence-based research to make a real difference.”
Meier was thrilled to receive Bleiler’s application for the master’s program.
“Cynthia was such a strong student in the addiction certificate program and brought a unique and beneficial perspective to all of our discussions. I’m excited she is continuing her education with us, and I can’t wait to see the impact she will have on the field of addictions,” he said.