Seven Challenges Method

The Seven Challenges® is a SAMHSA-approved, evidence-based substance abuse treatment model. It was developed by Dr. Robert Schwebel in 1991 in Arizona. Starr is licensed to administer treatment using this model. The program is used in residential and community-based settings. The Seven Challenges includes journals and counseling sessions. The challenges are as follows:

  1. We decided to open up and talk honestly about ourselves and about alcohol and other drugs.
  2. We looked at what we liked about alcohol and other drugs and why we were using them.
  3. We looked at our use of alcohol or other drugs to see if it has caused harm or could cause harm.
  4. We looked at our responsibility and the responsibility of others for our problems.
  5. We thought about where we seemed to be headed, where we wanted to go and what we wanted to accomplish.
  6. We made thoughtful decisions about our lives and about our use of alcohol and other drugs.
  7. We followed through on our decisions about our lives and drug use. If we saw problems, we went back to earlier challenges and mastered them.

Substance Abuse Treatment That Creates a Climate of Mutual Respect

Features of The Seven Challenges include:

  • Meeting youth where they are — which is often reluctance to stop using drugs — instead of where they are expected to be, which is readiness and willingness to commit to change.
  • Avoiding the pitfall of teaching youth to be drug-free before they have honestly decided to be drug-free. The program uses the power of education, finesse and respectful confrontation.
  • Placing a special emphasis on creating a climate of mutual respect where individuals can talk openly and honestly about themselves. Once an individual decides to change, they are given the tools and are provided with support to ensure success.
  • Giving youth appropriate coping mechanisms for co-occurring problems. Individuals resort to substance abuse for a reason. Rather than acting as antagonists who want to take something away, staff motivate youth to seek healthy ways of managing emotions and function as problem-solving partners.
  • Creating a developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive environment that uses personal empowerment to create lasting change.


Many students who have completed the program have experienced tremendous personal growth. Through making thoughtful decisions, youth have learned to weigh the pros and cons of drug use.

“I love this program. I’ve seen a great change in my behavior and my thought process. I don’t feel any pressure to stop smoking, but now I have other means of relieving stress. This program has been a good thing for me because it makes me open my eyes and see how smart I am, and that I can be successful in life by taking things I’ve learned here and applying them on the streets and in my community. I would recommend this program to anyone trying to get off a bad pathway and onto a good one.”

“What I like about The Seven Challenges is openly talking about problems and being honest. I also like being able to get things off my chest.”

“The Seven Challenges helped me realize that there is more to life than just drugs. It helped me realize why I was doing drugs and what I liked about doing drugs. It helped me to be honest with myself and with others.”

“What I think about The Seven Challenges is it is really helping me a lot. As you talk more and more about The Seven Challenges, it shows you why you do the things you do. I haven’t been here long, but I feel like I’m starting to be a changed person. It’s not where you’re from, it’s who you become. And being here at Starr, I have seen a bigger future for me.”


If you’d like more information on The Seven Challenges, visit

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