TAKING THE ESCALATOR: An Alternative to the 12 Steps
Harm Reduction & Motivational Tools
for Overcoming Opioids, Heroin & Other Drugs
Non 12 Step Motivational Tools for Substance Use & Mental Health

    Free Addiction Resources  

Taking the Escalator Toolsharing Database

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 New group therapy activities are added regularly through the Taking the Escalator Blog - 

Chapters 1 - 4: Essential Background Information

ABOUT Taking the Escalator

Escalator First Floor: Finding Your Way through the Escalator

Helpers - Identifying who is out there to help you with the change process

Assessing Your Change Initiative - Getting started learning about insight, internal motivation and external motivation



Escalator Second Floor: Acknowledge and Reinforce Strengths


Simple Insight Inventory - Strengthening existing insight to build motivation

Simple Insight Inventory II - (External/Support) - Working on external motivators and supports
The Insight GameWho knows the group?

Pick a Card  - A variety of questions for insightful discussion

Accept-Cope-Adapt - An approach for dealing with life struggles

READ - Unfollowing the Nonsense - A brief discussion on how media can influence perception

Why am I Here? - Getting honest about the real reasons for coming to treatment

INTERNAL MOTIVATION - Increasing existing motivation further

Dissecting the Heart - Enhanced internal motivation building

Outside In - Building yourself up on the inside by developing a solid plan

EXTERNAL MOTIVATION - Strengthening existing supports and outside motivators

External Motivation - Looking at what pushes us to change and ways to increase support
Support Report  - Assessing and maximizing exisiting potential support system

Healthy Families - Looking at positive family qualities

Family Match Game - An icebreaker discussion for multii-family therapy group


Escalator Third Floor: Enhancing Areas of Need

Enhancing Insight From the Ground Up-

Check In - A basic tool for checking in where you are today
Taking a Trip to the Other Side - Again exploring insight and motivation building from new perspectives
Change Analysis - Examining the actual, the real and the ideal
Point of View Adjustment - Looking at other viewpoints to gain awareness
Shielding - Looking at how we may try to protect ourselves from incomfortable realities
A Journey Through Change - Looking at change from various perspectives

Enhancing Internal Motivation - Stoking the flames of motivation

Flammable Areas - Early stage insight and motivation building
Decreasing the Negative & Increasing the Positive - (Love the Good, Hate the Bad)

Enhancing External Motivation and Support - Getting started with building a serviceable support system

Goal Setting - Using goals to build motivation
Support Zones & Interpersonal Boundaries - Stepping outside of your comfort zone to build support

The Pendulum - Examining Common Family Issues - Examining some common family challenges


Escalator Fourth Floor: Overcoming Obstacles

Or READ - The Subterfuge Exclusion - (Similiar to Circumventing Excuses in different format)

Obstacle Course - (Start Here) - This initial activity helps you identify which obstacles to work on below:

Strengths and Weaknesses Examining strengths we have and weaknesses we need to work on in the change process


Escalator Fifth Floor: Global Challenges

For Counselors - READ: What are Coexisting Issues?

Associations - Honestly considering how your choice of associations affect you

Coping with Cravings - An essential list of tools for understanding and managing cravings and urges
Decision-Making and Ethics - Examining what is behind making the right choices

Ethical Decision-Making 2 - Using insight and ethics to make tough choices

Responsibility Road - Looking at the critical concept of increasing responsibility

 Making the Right Choice - Another look at making decisions starting from good solutions

Powerlessness and Willpower - Looking beyond powerlessness to examine where we can build willpower

Managing the Mind:

Thoughts and Feelings - Gaining an improved understanding how our thoughts and feelings affect us

Dealing with Feelings  -  Coping with feelings from three viewpoints

READ: Please Dont Feed the Monster - An illustration about negative thoughts and feelings

The IDEA Technique - A tool for coping with challenging thoughts and feelings
Guilt and Shame - Understanding and learning to cope with these challenging feelings

Maintaining a Balanced Ego - Looking at a balanced view of self

The Truth about Self Esteem - An in depth look at Self Esteem from a realistic perspective

Self Esteem II  - More self esteem, continued...

Insecurity - Everyone has them, is the group ready to share them? 

READ: Emotional Self-Prevention - Looking at sensitive areas

Coexisting Mental Heath Issues - A checklist for starting to look at mental health

Anger Discussion Sentence Completion - Simple questions for opening up discussion on anger

Alcohol and Depression Quiz - A very basic quiz focused on opening up a basic discussion on this topic
Coping with Stress - A comprehensive list of effective coping skills 


Readjusting Your Relationship Radar  - Adjusting the way you choose relationships
The Ideal Partner - Looking at what you want out of relationships

Guilt and Relationships - Coping with the challenges of guilt in relationships

Rules of "Fighting Fairly" - Some basic rules for conflict resolution in relationships


Escalator Sixth Floor: Managing and Avoiding Setbacks

Getting Over the Hump  - An activity for those who have been at this a long time

The Setback-Motivation Guide - Start here to determine what areas you need to work on below:

Weekend Plan - A basic planning tool for surviving weekends

Holiday Survival Plan - Planning ahead to get through any holiday without setbacks or relapse - 


Escalator Seventh Floor: Supplemental Suggestions and Considerations

Spirituality - Gaining a basic understanding of spirituality regardless of how or what you believe
Coping with Death and Dying - A simple outline for discussing coping with a recent loss without abusing substances

Values, Honesty and Integrity

FOR COUNSELORS READ: Engagement Tool - Values and Values and CBT

Lifeboat Activity - Lifeboat exercises are nothing new but this one has had good success


Personality Issues and Manipulation


Harm Reduction Specific  - 

(The Escalator method is a harm reduction approach overall however the following info specifically addresses harm reduction issues and topics)


Adolescent/Young Adult Specific Worksheets and Information

Adolescent Substance Use  - A basic educational outline for those working with adolescents and parents

ADOLESCENTS:  RISK FACTORS  - Exploring risk factors for substance use issues with young people

Smoking Cessation Specific Worksheets:

Icebreakers and Group Cohesion Building

(These are less about education and more about building up the group in a positive manner which can be equally important)

Group Glue - This one has a little bit of education because it explains the power and value of group cohesion

Social Media Icebreaker - Exercise for self expression based on social media

Grading the Group Interactive group report card

Grab Bag - A great list of interesting, questions and other situations to get people talking

Giving Activities - There is more happiness in giving than receiving

Group Member Fill In the Blank  - A great exercise to have fun and make group interactive

Slips of Paper - A quick and easy icebreaker that gets a group talking with no prep time
Unique - Discussing what you would and wouldnt do

Care or Don't Care Icebreaker - Another basic tool for starting group discussion

Majority - Interactive exercise, better for an established group than a new one

Choose or Lose Icebreaker   - Some basic multiple choice questions for opening up discussion 

Pointless Pursuits - (Warning: only try this if you and the group members have established a degree of comfort with one another)

Taking the Escalator

Additional Submissions by Taking the Escalator

Cross Addiction - Education and exercise on substituting addictive behaviors
How High was I..How Low did I Go?    Assessing highs and lows of getting high 

Labels - For lower insight levels, comparing what is using, abusing and addiction
Progress Report - Basic progress report worksheet for getting relevant discussion started
Understanding and Coping with Guilt and Shame -  Similar to the other but in a different format

COD - Co Occurring Disorders - An older outline about COD's and addiction some people (LH) still like to use (Updated version on About page)

Life Story Outline - An outline for presenting life stories in substance use treatment groups

Group Roles  - Outline of different ways individuals may protect themselves in group settings

The Disease Concept of Addiction - Review of "symptoms" of addiction

Guest Submissions - Please email [email protected] if you would like to submit an activity for the website

 Submitted by Lesley SanFilippo, LCSW:   


      Happiness Factor -  


  Submitted by Caitlin Kennedy LCSW, LCADC:

       Grief and Loss Cycle 


       Music and Recovery  


       Power and Control


       Self Awareness


       Self Esteem and Affirmation Development

       Plan to Avoid Relapse


  Submitted by Laura Hennessey, LCSW. LCADC


       Self Value