The Road to Recovery: Saddleback Graduate Robert Fletcher Student Spotlight

January 31, 2023
Saddleback Graduate Robert Fletcher

Robert Fletcher found his new career with Trinity Behavioral Health thanks to Saddleback College’s Alcohol and Drug Studies program. But this wasn’t a profession the 49-year-old La Habra resident had initially planned to enter.

Raised in the Los Angeles County coastal community of El Segundo, Fletcher was drawn to computer programming and earned a computer science degree from a San Diego County community college more than two decades prior. That degree led to jobs as a computer programmer and network administrator in Colorado and California.

It was during that time, however, that Fletcher says he became an alcoholic. Eventually, he would seek sobriety with the help of a 90-day treatment program in Lake Forest. Wanting to learn more about the causes and impacts of substance abuse, a counselor suggested he take some classes at Saddleback College’ Alcohol and Drug Studies program.

“I’m always looking to learn what I can,” he said. “The only background I had was that I drank. I was a severe alcoholic and that’s what got me into the field. I didn’t have any textbook knowledge. At the treatment center I was at, I asked a lot of questions. I didn’t understand everything about my illness, and I needed more information than just what a detox facility and treatment center could give you. So I started taking classes at Saddleback College and ended up earning a certificate.”

Earning an Alcohol and Drug Studies Certificate of Achievement includes completing an on-the-job internship. Fletcher’s internship came at Trinity Behavioral Health, which directly led to him being hired immediately after completing the program.

“I felt very comfortable going into the internship program and felt pretty confident going in, based on knowing what I knew from what I was taught. I had no knowledge of any of this before I went to Saddleback.”

Fletcher, who earned his certificate in 2019, said he initially served as a go-fer, with tasks ranging from picking up clients to writing reports. He also worked as counselor and today serves as a compliance officer. “I love this place,” he said of Trinity Behavioral Health. “It’s a fantastic place to work.”

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors is projected to grow by 22% over a 10-year period ending in 2031. The average wage is nearly $60,000 annually in California and in the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim area. Earnings for social and community service managers can earn significantly more, according to government figures.

The two-year program includes courses such as Introduction to Human Services, Alcohol and Drugs in Society, Addiction Studies and Counseling, Case Administration and Crisis Intervention, Family Dynamics of Addiction, and Physical Effects of Alcohol and Drugs. It is part of Saddleback’s career education Human Services department, which offers four areas of study for people looking for a career in professions focused on helping others: Alcohol & Drug Studies; Human Services Generalist; Mental Health Worker; and Eating Disorders and Community-Based Corrections.

Among the myriad organizations hiring Saddleback College program graduates are the County of Orange, St. Joseph Health, Covenant Health, West Anaheim Medical Center, Pacific Clinics, the  Los Angeles County Department of Human Resources, Autism Spectrum Therapies, St. Johns Well Child, UC Irvine Health and more.

“I’m satisfied,” Fletcher said. “It’s a very comprehensive program. The instructors I had were knowledgeable and had a lot of experience. They knew what they were talking about and were approachable and willing to help.”