Why Seven Challenges Works
In introducing the adult version of The Seven Challenges to the public, it is our belief that clients need an empowering message that says they can take power over their lives, including their use of alcohol and other drugs.
They need a program that treats them with respect; offers them choices and an opportunity to think through their own decisions; and provides a framework to work on the situational and psychological problems that co-occur with drug problems…without stigma. They also need a program with built in structure for session-to-session support for maintaining changes in drug use behavior. Caring, skillful, and individualized counseling is essential.
The Seven Challenges® program for adults offers comprehensive counseling to support people in making wise decisions and taking control of their own lives. It combines Mastery Counseling for co-occurring situational and psychological problems and the Challenge Process for decision-making.
Who Is The Seven Challenges For?
Seven Challenges is designed to accommodate individuals along a broad spectrum – from those who know they have a drug problem and know what they want to do about it to those who are uncertain about their drug use and about the direction they want to go.
It is respectful, helping clients explain their own drug use, even at serious problematic levels, without passing negative judgments about themselves. Instead of trying to control and prescribe behavior, the program offers multiple pathways to success.
The Seven Challenges is flexible in guiding people toward solutions that will work for them. Clients are given an opportunity to consider all their options, expand their options, and make their own decisions. Many people decide to quit using drugs. Others set new limits and see how that works.
The Seven Challenges Core Message
The Seven Challenges is based on a positive core message: that program participants have power and can take control of their lives, including their use of alcohol and other drugs. The task may be difficult; maybe even the hardest thing they ever did in their lives…but it can be done. Furthermore, they’re entitled to support and don’t have to do it alone.
In addition to face-to-face counseling, this program incorporates use of Leap of Power, a book that guides individuals through a process that leads to fully-informed decisions to change drug use behavior, and to successful follow-through. It also includes Journals that support clients in reflecting about multiple aspects of their lives, their decision-making, and their efforts at making changes.
With “Supportive Journaling,” counselors and clients engage in a process in which they communicate privately with one another through written words. This process supplements counseling by giving clients a chance to open up and reflect about their lives without the pressure of an immediate face-to-face audience. Personal and individualized support is provided through journaling.
The Mastery Counseling component of the program is a transtheoretical approach that empowers clients to do what mature people do when they want to take control of their own lives. That is, they pay attention to personal experiences. What is going well, they leave alone. Whatever is not going well, or as well as they would like it to be going, is identified as an issue. At every counseling session, clients work on an “issue” of personal concern and leave with practical help. They recognize that everyone has “issues,” so there is no stigma or judgment attached to engaging in such a counseling process.
Many people with serious drug problems (or serious problems with authority that involve drugs) arrive in counseling determined to quit or at least set new limits. The Seven Challenges program is structured to provide session-to-session support for their efforts right from the first encounter. It also helps these individuals step back and use the Challenge Process to lay a strong foundation for enduring success.
For those who are uncertain or uncommitted to change, this program uses the Challenge Process as the framework for making fully informed decisions. Following the public health model of decision-making, individuals evaluate their situation and weigh the benefit versus harm of changing their drug use behavior and other aspects of their lives.
Core Program Elements
A central feature of The Seven Challenges program is the materials. The Seven Challenges Manual is used by counselors as a learning tool and reference book. Leap of Power: Take Control of Alcohol, Drugs and Your Life and the set of Seven Challenges Journals are used by each client. There are also posters that are used during sessions and a number of documents that support the implementation process.
Seven Challenges sessions can be individual, group, or a combination of the two. Sessions incorporate work on drug issues, life skill deficits, and co-occurring issues, with frequency of sessions commensurate with intensity of the problem. Family involvement is an important aspect of Seven Challenges counseling and most providers are able to include family at some level – the program supports this process as well. The Seven Challenges promotes openness in relationships, thus trauma issues are often exposed. Skill building on trauma issues such as safety, trust, boundaries, excessive self- blame, and identifying threats are incorporated in this program.
Training and Support
Implementation of The Seven Challenges begins with on-site Initial Training where counselors are taught the program skills This training is highly interactive and utilizes role plays and other training methods to best prepare counselors to provide sessions. Seven Challenges trainers help trainees build upon the knowledge they have already acquired through other education and experience. About 2-4 months following the Initial Training, a Leader Training is attended by clinical supervisors so they are prepared to support and clinically supervise Seven Challenges’ counselors. Leaders also monitor for Program fidelity, and train new staff when there is turnover. The Seven Challenges trainer facilitates quarterly support calls with the team, and conducts an annual Support/Fidelity Visit. This regimen of training and ongoing support has proven to be crucial in maintaining program effectiveness, fidelity and sustainability.
In 2018 Journal of Drug Issues, Sage Publishing, a study authored by the University of Arizona, Southwest Institute for Research on Women was published. The research study was of adult drug court clients and the findings indicated higher acceptability of The Seven Challenges than standard cognitive-behavioral treatment as reflected in treatment satisfaction, honesty, and disclosure, as well as perceived impact of treatment. Results also showed that The Seven Challenges was as effective as standard cognitive behavioral treatment at improving vocational engagement and was more effective at reducing substance use, related problems, and internal mental distress. The Seven Challenges was also effective at reducing criminal activity.