U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Seven Challenges: An Effective Treatment for Adolescents with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Mental Health Problems

NCJ Number
Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions Volume: 7 Issue: 3 Dated: 2007 Pages: 29-49
Sally J. Stevens; Robert Schwebel; Bridget Ruiz
Date Published
21 pages
This study examined 3-month and 6-month substance-use and mental-health outcomes for 36 youth who participated in The Seven Challenges Program, which was designed to address the stage of change and developmental challenges characteristic of adolescents.
The study found significant improvement in the 3-month substance-use and mental-health outcomes for the youth who participated in the Seven Challenges 2-month intensive outpatient program. Although the substance-problem and substance-frequency scales were still at the cut-off point for dependency and higher frequencies of use, they had significantly improved. All three mental health variables--General Mental Distress Index, Depressive Symptom Index, and Anxiety Symptom Index--showed significant reductions in scores from program admission to 3 months. Substance-related problems, along with the three mental health measures, all continued to improve at the 6-month followup. Only frequency of substance use increased slightly. The authors conclude that these outcomes at both 3 and 6 months after treatment entry, together with the adaptability of the program for use in various settings (outpatient, residential, and school-based), show that Seven Challenges is a promising approach for intervention with adolescent substance abusers with co-occurring mental health problems. Seven Challenges provides a framework for respectfully challenging youth to engage in self-evaluation and a decisionmaking process. Motivational approaches and other more directive strategies are used to increase awareness of the harm from drug use without increasing defensiveness. Concurrently, Seven Challenges works with adolescents to address co-occurring mental health problems, empowering them to cope in positive ways without drugs. The 36 adolescent participants were between the ages of 13 and 17. They were assessed on frequency of substance use, substance-related health and psychological problems, and various mental health problems at program entry and 3 months and 6 months after 2 months of program participation. 5 tables and 49 references