Breckenridge Texan

Personal challenges strengthen TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling instructors’ resolve to help others

Personal challenges strengthen TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling instructors’ resolve to help others
June 19
12:00 2024

Three Texas State Technical College graduates, Ivy Delong and Jamie Thompson, both of Breckenridge, and Amy Gonzales of Harlingen proved that the path to success can be found even in the hardest of times and now are instructors for the college’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program.

Connie Schaaf, director of alignment and program team lead for the program, said she believes the personal trials that the three instructors have endured help them relate to their students.

“I don’t know how you could do any better than what we’ve got,” she said.

Delong enrolled in TSTC’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program in Breckenridge after overcoming her own issues with substance abuse.

“It was the beginning of a journey, so part of the journey was getting in recovery and realizing that I wanted to do something with my life,” she said.

TSTC’s supportive instructors and family-oriented environment helped Delong earn her Associate of Applied Science degree in 2009. After nine years of working in professional counseling in Brownwood, her passion for helping others led her back to TSTC to teach.

“For me, TSTC means a brand-new beginning,” Delong said. “It’s more than just a job. It’s more than just having gone to college. It’s a passion of mine.”

In May 2025, Delong will celebrate 20 years of sobriety.

Thompson said she had wanted to work in counseling from an early age and discovered TSTC’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program after moving to Breckenridge to take care of her grandparents. She has taught Chemical Dependency Counseling at the college since 2023.

Thompson said that when she was working on her Associate of Applied Science degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling at TSTC, her newborn baby died from medical complications. With support from the college’s staff, she earned her degree in 2013 and got a job as a hospital clinician in Mansfield.

“It instilled in me that, no matter what, I had people who cared dearly, and there was no challenge that I could not face and overcome,” Thompson said.

Gonzales graduated from TSTC’s Health Information Technology program in 2002 while pregnant with her second child. She became interested in substance abuse counseling after experiencing firsthand some of the negative consequences of alcoholism in society and her own family.

“I did lose my late husband to severe alcohol use disorder,” the Harlingen native said.

Gonzales left her career in pharmacy and medical records to earn her counseling degree from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

“Everything that I’ve learned throughout the years, this job is where it’s all kind of compiled into one,” Gonzales said.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and two certificates of completion in Chemical Dependency Counseling, all 100 percent online.

According to, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earn a median salary of $52,190 a year in Texas. The field was projected to have a growth rate of 28% in the state from 2020 to 2030.

Registration for TSTC’s fall semester is underway. For more information, go to


Story and photos provided by TSTC.



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