Seven Challenges, More Than “Just” Drug Education
In her 30 years of studying substance use and helping teens recover, YES Director of School-Based Services, Kristie Neklason’s favorite moment has always been meeting the individual underneath the addiction.
“When you lose yourself in drugs, you lose your individuality,” she says. “You lose your ability to make a unique contribution to the world.”
She likens recovery to removing a hood — but that transformation isn’t always easy to bring about. So YES started Seven Challenges Group, an evidence-based group that offers youth a safe space to not only talk about drug use but to talk about the challenges that lie beneath. Seven Challenges is one of several other substance use and co-occurring disorders group treatment programs at YES.
The program includes reading, journaling, group sessions, and one-to-one counseling to help teens become accountable for their substance use, investigate why they use and its impact on their life, and their motives for changing their behavior. Research shows that the approach is working.
“Seven Challenges is about having clients, work and reflect. We encourage them to challenge themselves to be open and honest about their lives and use of drugs and alcohol. We want to see them make decisions and follow-through,” said Tine Morales Seven Challenges Facilitator. “The group setting offers the youth the opportunity to challenge themselves and each other. Through the group process, our clients walk away with insight, an action plan, and self-understanding. It can be difficult to have these experiences when they are in crisis and use substances to feel better.”
Many of the teens who enter the program have already developed a relationship with drugs or alcohol as a means of having fun, escaping or coping with negative emotions; but sometimes, the relationship is physical. Neklason says it’s hard to watch a teen who’s physiologically dependent struggle to recover.
Fortunately, YES has programs all along the substance-use spectrum, from experimentation to dependence, including one-day alcohol and drug awareness classes and UPROADS YES’ sober recreation group, which helps youth have fun in recovery. That range of support is what contributes to YES’ nearly 83% success rate in treating clients through Substance Use & Co-occurring Disorder Services and Youth & Family Counseling. And those successes are clearly reflected by clients who are making healthier choices.
“The feedback I receive the most about the program is how grateful the participants are in having a safe, nonjudgmental space to talk about their drug use, their struggles and their hopes and dreams,” Morales said. “Most often it isn’t about drugs, but rather what they want to accomplish in our community.”