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ASU’s online master’s program in addiction psychology receives game-changing $800K donation

Support from the Glen Swette Estate expands access to substance misuse and addiction treatment, training

A silhouetted man and women sit on a mountain top looking out at a golden sunset.

Arizona State University’s online MS in addiction psychology provides classroom training to students throughout the U.S., including students in remote and underserved locations. Photo courtesy ASU

August 10, 2023

Despite being one of the largest preventable health problems in the U.S., people facing substance misuse and addiction have limited access to evidence-based treatment.

At Arizona State University, the Department of Psychology, a unit within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, addresses a critical need to increase the addiction counselor workforce through an innovative addiction psychology program.

Recently, the Glen Swette Estate donated $800,000 to help accelerate the expansion of training and treatment offered through the addiction psychology certificate and master’s program, as well as to establish a resource center for community education and prevention services.

“We are grateful to Mary Walker and Rob Swette, Glen’s trustees, for their contributions to improve access to addiction resources and qualified professionals,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “Their generous investment will enable more people to get the help they need.”

Launched in 2022, the Master of Science in addiction psychology —offered through ASU Online — is steadily increasing enrollment. The graduate program stands out as one of the few online addiction psychology programs to include an in-person practicum experience, qualifying students for licensure in almost every state upon graduation.

“The supervised practicum experience allows students to learn counseling skills while directly helping those in need of addiction treatment,” said Matt Meier, clinical associate professor and director of the program. “Our students are increasing access to addiction treatment locally, and through our new telehealth practicum, we will also be able to reach into underserved areas throughout the state.”

The ability to complete practicum fieldwork, combined with the excellent faculty and supportive learning environment, attracted students like Clifford Hudson and Matthew Broussard, who aim to change the addiction conversation.

“I think the practicum was probably my favorite part of the program,” Broussard said. “You get feedback in real time. I would have a session recorded and then immediately after the session be able to watch it with my supervisor. I’d take that feedback into the classroom and discuss it with my peers. I thought it was extremely beneficial.”

Broussard became the first program alumnus this past May, adding a master’s degree in addiction psychology to his collection of scholastic achievements. He graduated from ASU three times prior, earning a master’s degree in the science of health care delivery and bachelor’s degrees in psychology and philosophy, in addition to his advanced addiction psychology degree. He plans to apply for licensure in Massachusetts.

Hudson, a currently enrolled student who was selected for the 2023 National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship Program for Addiction Counselors, understands the need for increased access to addiction counselors firsthand.

“I’m 12 years sober. Early on in my sobriety, I realized I didn’t want to just live the sober lifestyle, but I wanted to help other people,” Hudson said.

Hudson first entered the addiction psychology profession as a certified recovery specialist. When he was exploring potential graduate programs, he said the 7.5-week pacing asynchronous class sessions provided a focused and flexible solution for his studies. What truly stood out to Hudson, however, was the remarkable support he received from his classmates. When he was struggling with classes and assignments, they were there to encourage him and provide valuable resources.

Broussard echoed Hudson’s sentiments, saying, “We’re all learning how to be clinicians and learning how to help other people. I really felt like my classmates truly cared. When things would get rough and difficult for some of us, we would really lean on each other and really support each other, and you felt that from not only your peers, but from your supervisors and your professors, as well.”

A wish to 'help people’

Swette had a successful career in real estate in California and was known for his resilience, sense of humor, friendliness, generosity and unselfish concern for others. He died in 2017 after a courageous battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. His final wish to his siblings, who serve as trustees to his estate, was to use the estate to “help people.”

In addition to supporting Lou Gehrig’s disease research, they chose to support addiction research at ASU because Swette was a recovering alcoholic who was 20 years sober when he died.

Collaborating with ASU partnerships like the Substance Use and Addiction Translation Research Network (SATRN) and Research and Education Advancing Children’s Health (REACH), the development of the Addiction Resource Center for Community Education and Prevention Services will have broad community impact in preventing youth substance use and reducing the burden of addiction by providing continuing education courses and in-service trainings for addiction counselors, behavioral health professionals, secondary education teachers and counselors.

Support will be available for corporate partners, too. Evidence-based, self-guided prevention programs for employees will be developed and disseminated through the Swette family-funded resource center and the department’s Psych for Life initiative.

Funding would also support the development of a telehealth addiction practicum, increasing the availability of evidence-based, addiction prevention and treatment services in underrepresented communities.

“The online format of the master’s program has allowed us to provide classroom training to students throughout the U.S., including students in remote and underserved locations. Master’s students must also complete a 600-hour supervised addiction practicum. However, the lack of high-quality addiction treatment broadly, and particularly in underserved areas, makes it difficult for some students to secure an approved local, supervised practicum. This telehealth program will make us more accessible, increasing high-quality addiction prevention and treatment where it is needed most,” Meier said.