About Our History
The Seven Challenges was developed by Robert Schwebel, Ph.D., who is still actively involved with clinical aspects of the Program and its implementation. Initial work with The Seven Challenges occurred in 1991 with adolescents in a Tucson, Arizona residential setting. Within a year from that date, program development continued in day treatment, juvenile justice, and intensive outpatient settings. From the beginning, Dr. Schwebel firmly believed that a substance abuse counseling program for adolescents must be developmentally appropriate; based upon psychological research and science; including the study of what has been proven to be effective in bringing about change; and holistic - that is, addressing substance abuse issues as well as co-occurring problems and life skills deficits. Furthermore, while writing the Program he was working with substantial numbers of minority groups, including Hispanic, African American, and Native American youth. He saw the need for a Program that would be respectful and sensitive to a variety of cultures.
Unlike most evidence based programs, The Seven Challenges was not funded by federal grant money and was not developed by an academic at a university, Rather it originated in a community setting. Dr. Schwebel had written a drug prevention book for parents - Saying NO is Not Enough - and was approached by a local agency in Tucson to develop a drug counseling program. The program quickly generated considerable interest locally, and caught the attention of someone from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) in Washington, D.C. Thus, Seven Challenges was then rolled into a CSAT funded research project as a comparison group. As positive outcomes were demonstrated, word of the program's success began to spread by word of mouth. The Seven Challenges is now used across the United States, in an enormous array of different service constellations.
Dr. Schwebel did not develop The Seven Challenges with the goal or expectation that it would become a nationally recognized program. As the reputation of the program grew and demands for implementation snowballed, much attention in recent years has been devoted to understanding and improving the implementation process. A vast array of new materials has been written to help with initial implementation. New processes were developed to provide ongoing support, and improved and expanded training to clinical leaders within agencies; leaders who could supervise, teach the program to new hires, and sustain the program for the long run. Quality assurance processes have been developed to help agencies upgrade service quality and attain fidelity of implementation. Sharon Conner became the director of Program Services for The Seven Challenges in early 2005. She assists organizations during their process of determining whether the Program is a good fit for their setting and if it is, then how to make a plan and arrangements for successful implementation. Sharon also coordinates the licensing, training, and ongoing support process.
Despite The Seven Challenges' recognition as an evidence based program, those of us who are involved with this program are determined that it will keep evolving and improving. We constantly work on developing new tools to strengthen the program, seek colleagues who can make contributions to its enrichment, and gathers input and feedback from youth and from those who provide the service.
About Dr. Schwebel
Robert Schwebel, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in couples and family issues and in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, provides lectures and training sessions to professional and community audiences around the country and abroad. He has developed and directed prevention and counseling programs for schools as well as public and private agencies He has published numerous articles and is the author of several books including Saying No Is Not Enough; Keep Your Kids Tobacco-Free; and Who's on Top, Who's on Bottom: How Couples Can Learn to Share Power. Regularly called for comments and interviews by the national and local press, Dr. Schwebel has appeared on The Oprah Show, The Today Show, numerous CNN interviews, and The CBS Early Show. He lives with his family in Tucson, Arizona.