Firelands offers counseling program for youths

After about three years on hiatus, Firelands Recovery and Counseling Services has returned a substance abuse program for youth.

The program, which started in June, is The Seven Challenges program developed by Robert Schwebel, Ph.D., in 1991. The Seven Challenges program is an evidence-based program for young people ages 13-17.

“This is not your typical program,” said Joshua Bower, licensed therapist at Firelands and program facilitator. “It is an in-depth program that helps kids determine the reasons they are using drugs or alcohol and what the drugs and alcohol are doing for them, good or bad.”

Challenges are divided up into workbooks that the youths are assigned during the class period. They then are to participate in an activity that corresponds with that challenge.

Challenges include opening up and talking honestly; realizing what they like about alcohol and drugs and why they are using them; determining if drugs or alcohol have caused harm or could cause harm; recognizing their responsibility and the responsibility of others for their problems; seeing where they are headed and where they want to go; making thoughtful decisions about their substance abuse; and checking whether they have followed through on their decisions about their lives and substance abuse.

“We had realized there was no program for adolescents in the area and saw there was a need,” Michelle Clinger, site director at the Tiffin/Upper Sandusky Firelands offices, said.

The program meets 3-5 p.m. Monday and Fridays.

Bower said adolescents in the program go at their own pace and can join any time. Those involved in the program can be refered through the court or other agency or youth can have their parents call the office to start the process.

“Overall, this program helps kids to learn informed decision making and to work out what decisions help them,” Bower said.

Bower said adolescents are accustomed to adults as probation officers and that is how they base their trust. This is a safe place where youth can share, Bower said.

“Kids are sometimes afraid to tell the truth,” he said.

“This is a great outlet for them,” Robin Stull, drug and alcohol coordinator at Firelands, said. “Kids are more open about their use of drugs or alcohol and it is some place safe for them. It is somewhere they can be educated on making responsible decisions.”

Stull said those unsure about the program should “just try it out.”

“Take what works for you and leave the rest,” she said. “The program is not for everyone. Not every person is the same.”

For more information about The Seven Challenges program, call (419) 448-9440.