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The Seven Challenges


Seven Challenges Pic 1

Writing and developing The Seven Challenges Program has been a major part of my life’s work. When I first started writing it in 1990, the treatment landscape was grim, and not much has changed over the years. Back then and to this day, most people don’t want to go to drug treatment because they expect to be negatively judged, told they have a chronic disease, and that they are powerless over their impulses. They expect to be informed that there’s only one solution – immediate abstinence – and only one pathway to success, which is to follow the prescribed program. Take it or leave it. That’s the reason I knew we needed a completely different approach and wrote The Seven Challenges that embodied the following qualities.

Respect of Individuals

No put downs, no labels, no shame and no blame. 


Holistic Counseling

People use drugs in response to the circumstances of their lives, and their drug use affects their circumstances. The two are interrelated so we need to be expansive and to provide holistic life counseling that includes, but is not limited to a focus on drugs.


All Doors Open

No one will be turned away: Individualized counseling will be provided to anyone using any kind of drug, at any problem level, and at any stage of change.


All Options Available

Options will not be limited: Individuals who want to make changes can choose to quit, set new limits, or even use the same amount but in a safer way (for example, no drinking and driving).



Validate that people can feel powerless about their drug use, but show confidence in their ability to do more than they may believe possible with a “You can do it” message. 


Practical Help

At any point that someone decides to change their drug use behavior, provide individualized support at every session to help them succeed.


Problem Solving and Skill Building

Support clients in their own efforts to create meaningful, satisfying and pleasurable lives, which then opens the option of feeling good, without having to rely on drugs.


Developmentally Appropriate

Instead of dictating the behavior of young people, help them develop their logical thinking and support them in the important task of forming their own individual identities.

Based on these principles I developed an adolescent, adult, and brief version of The Seven Challenges Program, now used in hundreds of organizations all across the country. 

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