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Beyond “Just” Drug Education, Empower Youth Choice

Lidia Harding
Blog For parents For teens Programs Substance Abuse
Teens with journals

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.

Beyond Abstinence to Understanding

The Seven Challenges program is built upon the foundation of evidence-based therapy, incorporating a unique blend of counseling techniques that aim to guide youth through their substance use journey. Unlike traditional approaches focusing solely on abstinence, Seven Challenges delves deeper, encouraging participants to explore their motives for change and foster a sense of self-awareness and personal responsibility.

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 lives, and their motives for changing their behavior.

“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 Tina Morales, Director of Community-Based Services. “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.”

A Spectrum of Services

YES has programs all along the substance-use spectrum, from experimentation to dependence, including one-day alcohol and drug awareness classes called ADEC, a six-week education and introductory treatment group called the AWARE Group, and a SMART recovery support group for family and friends. It’s this range of support that contributes to YES’ nearly 95% success rate in treating clients through Substance Use and Co-occurring Disorder Services and Youth and Family Counseling. And those successes are clearly reflected by clients who are making healthier choices.

Read about a young client’s experience in the 7 Challenges Group.

“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.”


To learn more about Seven Challenges and our other substance use and co-occurring counseling and treatment, please visit our services page.
If you or someone you know (age birth to 22) is struggling with substance use issues, please contact us to schedule an appointment at 425-747-4937.

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