Taking the Escalator
Substance Use Therapy Tools
Harm Reduction
12 Step Alternatives
Non 12 Step Motivational Harm Reduction Tools for Substance Use & Mental Health

    Addiction and Substance Use Resources   

Taking the Escalator Therapy Tools

(Same tools, but organized according to the Taking the Escalator Method)


NEW: Ideas, News and Suggestions for Counselors:


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Escalator Assessment and Sceening Tools


Escalator 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

VIDEO LINK - "Understanding Insight and Motivation for Positive Change" - (Corresponds with Assessing Change Initiative)


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

Pet Appreciation - Discussing how animals can help us cope

Systems Check  - A checklist review of what is needed to move forward and upward

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

Check In Cheat Sheet  A comprehensive list of information and ideas for the check in process in therapy

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)

Professing the Positive - Talking about what is going right

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

Goal Setting - Using goals to build motivation

Goal Setting Go Fish - Goal setting for motivation building in game format

Goal Setting Collective: Looking Forward to the Year Ahead - A collection of goal oriented activities

Four Year Prediction Time Capsule - An interactive exercise on long term goal setting

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:

Are You Letting Fear Hold You Back? - Looking at some fears that can be obstacles to progress

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

Thinking About Thinking  - Thinking, feeling and behaving

Thinking Styles Quiz - Self assessment tool for looking at how we think

Feeling Under the Weather - A brief true-false list to open an honest discussion about feelings

REBT - Overview of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy skills for group

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

Mind on Mental Health (Podcast), has an engaging host and knowledgeable speakers on MH topics
Coexisting Mental Heath Issues - A checklist for starting to look at mental health

Anger Styles - What is your anger style?

Anger Attitude Check - Attitude is everything when it comes to expressing feelings

Anger Memories: Family  - Looking at what we learned about anger from our family of origin

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

Ways People Express Anger - An analysis of different ways people handle anger

Owning and Discharging Anger - Taking responsibility for your feelings and actions

Owning Anger Using "I" Statements  - A basic but effective tool for expressing feelings

Anger Management: Digging Deeper and Using Basic AM Skills  - Understanding and coping with anger triggers

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 

Use Your Brain and Not Your Pain - Another simple but effective strategy for coping with challenging emotions

How Do You Heal? - A look at the healing process for trauma



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

"I Feel Like No One Understands" - Exploring empathy to help build interpersonal 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

UNG- Unnecessary Grief - Thinking and planning ahead to avoid trouble later

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

VIDEO LINK - Values - What's Important - (Corresponds to the above worksheet)

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)

Understanding Harm Reduction - The Podcast  - (Based on the above outline - click title to listen)

Adolescent/Young Adult Specific Worksheets and Information

Adolescent Substance Use  - A basic educational outline for those working with adolescents and parents
Adolescent Substance Use Group (Multiple Choice) - This is a kahoot activity for adolescent substance use groups

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

Brief Group Module and Icebreaker Collection 1 - Multiple shorter activities to choose from in this collection

Making the Most out of Substance Use Treatment - This one is different because it is an interactive Kahoot activity

Telehealth Specific Group Cohesion Building Activities - Ideas specifically for virtual video groups

Declare-Disclose-Display -  A variety of ways to get the group talking and interacting

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

Describe - Draw - Describe - Get group sharing thoughts and feelings with art

Deep and Personal - Some in depth personal questions for opening people up

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 
Icebreakers for Break Time - Short but interesting group assignments for breaks in between groups

Sophisticated Debates - Communicating your viewpoint in a respectful way

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

The League of Just Us - A basic activity about superheros just for fun

Escalator Jeopardy - A comprehensive educational review in relaxed game format


Group Topics, Ideas and Worksheets for Closing Group

Goodbye Group - An outline for group when someone is leaving, graduating or moving on

VIDEO: Life Story Video - LB HEARS Episode 1 - Nikki Tierney -  (Click to view)

Long Branch HEARS is an organization in Monmouth County, New Jersey, the same area where Taking the Escalator got its start. Long Branch HEARS is a community based group working to do their part to help the substance use epidemic in this area. 

Nicole "Nikki" Tierney is a close friend of Taking the Escalator as she has worked closely with Taking the Escalator clinicians during her personal journey of recovery. Nikki's story is engaging and motivating and this video can be used as group therapy tool as your clients will surely be inspired by her story

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)

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 takingtheescaltor@gmail.com 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


        Stress PowerPoint Slides (Submitted by Laura Hennessy, LCSW, LCADC) - CLICK HERE FOR ACTUAL POWERPOINT VERSION