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Taking the Escalator Therapy Tools

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

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Escalator Assessment and Sceening Tools

Click to view the Taking the Escalator Assessment and Screening Tools


Escalator Chapters 1 - 4: Essential Background Information


ABOUT Taking the Escalator

Taking Another Look at Addiction, Recovery, and Sobriety

Why Take a Different View?

Understanding Some Key Concepts in a New Light

Understanding the Escalator Method from a Theoretical Perspective

The 10 Principles of the Escalator Change Process


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)

FOR COUNSELORS - Read: Understanding the Key Roles of Insight & Motivation for Engagement in Counseling

The Ideal Vs. The Real in Substance Use Treatment


Escalator Second Floor: Acknowledge and Reinforce Strengths


READ: What Exactly is Insight?

Insight Inventory Background Information

Simple Insight Inventory - Strengthening existing insight to build motivation

Simple Insight Inventory II - (External/Support) - Working on external motivators and supports

Insight: Keeping the Window Open

The Insight Game - Who knows the group?

Find Yourself

Keeping it Real

Pick a Card - A variety of questions for insightful discussion

Confident or Cocky? - It Matters

Making Healthy Self -Investments

READ - Topping Out...Worse than Hitting Bottom?

READ - Accept - Cope - Adapt, Part One

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

Overreaction: Putting Things in Perspective with Gratitude

Overcoming Ignorance and Indifference for Positive Growth


An Interview with my Past and Future Self

Integrity Self Exploration

Simile Self Identification

Truth Mining

The Irony of Addiction

Addiction and Mental Health Pictured

Major Life Aspects of the Disease of Addiction

Self Searching for Acceptance

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

Wisdom, Intelligence and Changing Your Paradigm

INTERNAL MOTIVATION - Increasing existing motivation further

READ: Internal Motivation

Dissecting the Heart - Enhanced internal motivation building

Positive Motivation - Building motivation by focusing on the positive

READ: Planning for Inspiration

Stay Inspired by Planning for Change (Activity)

14 Character Traits that are Essential for Sustaining Internal Motivation

13 Expectations and Aspirations

READ: To Control or Not to Control...Is that the Question?

Going the Distance: Sustaining Motivation

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

Friction, Traction and Action

Change Mode

Gratitude Grab Bag

Grind Through Boredom

Pet Appreciation - Discussing how animals can help us cope

Recovery Stories


Resilience is the Endgame

The Resilient Brain

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

Inspect, Reflect and Protect

Motivation, Determination, & Habit in Recovery - (Submitted by Cassie Jewell)

Motivate Me 1 2 3

Self-Assessment: Giving Yourself Credit Where Credit is Due

EXTERNAL MOTIVATION - Strengthening existing supports and outside motivators

READ: External Motivation Background Information

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

Family Timeline

READ: Push Your Best Foot Forward

Podcast - Do You Have to Want to Change?


Escalator Third Floor: Enhancing Areas of Need

Enhancing Insight From the Ground Up-

READ: Empathy without Agreement

READ: Enhancing Insight Part 1

READ: Enhancing Insight Part 2

Be Your Best Self

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

Defining Addiction

Knowing What You Don't Know

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

Life's Education: Breaking the pattern of repeated mistakes

Self-Ratings Scale (The Lanni Scale)

The Last 3

Empathy Moments

Remembering Me A.D. (After Death)

Past, Present and Future

Control Loss

Still Drinking?...Think First

Tolerance...A Breakfast You Can Tolerate

Garbages and Gardens (Attitude Made Simple)

Using Fables to Overcome Foibles

Accountability and You - Are You Meeting the Challenge?

Accountability Self-Examination Worksheet

Attitude Antonym Answers

This is Your Brain on Drugs...(Fried Egg not Included)

What is Self-Honesty and Why is it So Important?

The Mirror of Awareness - Using the Group as a Mirror

Perspective Shifts for Positive Growth

Viewing Time Wisely

Counting the Cost of THC (This has nothing to do with marijuana)

The Numbers Game

Start Where You Are, Use What You Have, Do What You Can

Surviving Challenges by Adjusting Your Attitude

Why Didn't I Listen?

Good Times, Bad Times

Enhancing Internal Motivation - Stoking the flames of motivation

Flammable Areas - Early stage insight and motivation building

From the Heart

Decreasing the Negative & Increasing the Positive - (Love the Good, Hate the Bad)

READ: 5 and 5 for Change

Giving Yourself the Best Chance to Succeed

Living Up to Your Potential - Part 1 - Opening the Door

Living Up to Your Potential - Part 2 - Imagining Your Potential

Living Up to Your Potential - Part 3 - The Me I want to Be

Low Hanging Fruit

"Must Haves" - Identifying and Discussing Basic Needs for Self-Improvement

Professing the Positive - Talking about what is going right

Simple Questions During Complex Challenges

Breaking the Cycle of Broken Promises

Just Do It (Already)


Life Skills Profile

Return to Normalcy

3 G's to Keep you Going

Starting and Staying on a Positive Note

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

Don't Just Set Goals; Keep Them Going

VIDEO for above Worksheet Don't Just Set Goals Keep them Going

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

Common Goals

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

Hopeful Thoughts and Plans for the Year Ahead - Discussion questions for the upcoming year

Support Zones & Interpersonal Boundaries - Stepping outside of your comfort zone to build support

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

READ - (For Famlilies) - You Cant Nag Someone Sober

Addiction and Choice - More Food for Thought

Good Choices for Good Living

Good Choices for Good Living - For Families

POWERPOINT SLIDES Good Choices for Good Living - For Families

Stages of Change -A Guide for Families of Individuals with Substance Use Issues


Strategy List for Families Dealing with a Loved One's Substance Use Issue

The Power of Caring, Connection and Resilience


Podcast - Overcoming Stigma with Empathy


Escalator Fourth Floor: Overcoming Obstacles

READ: Circumventing Excuses

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

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

Escalator Fifth Floor: Global Challenges

For Counselors - READ: What are Coexisting Issues?

READ: Beyond People, Places and Things

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

Cravings Planning

Assertive Communication

Win, Lose or Indifferent: Positive Qualities for Positive Gains

Learning to Say "No" Effectively

Flipping the Script on Addiction

Decision-Making and Ethics - Examining what is behind making the right choices

Lost - When you don't know which way to turn

Challenging Choices Checklist - For life's more difficult decisions

The Space Between - Effectively using the space between feelings and words/actions

Red Flags for Decision Making – Warning Signs for Productive Living

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

The Five Basic Elements of Effective Decision Making

The River of Choices: Coping with Stigma

Responsibility Road - Looking at the critical concept of increasing responsibility

6 Shoulds and Should Nots for Responsibility

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

Group Problem Solving

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

The Table of Trust - Building trust

Managing the Mind:

Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment Overview

Change the Channel: The TV Mind Analogy

Coping Tool Box - Warmup Exercise

Coping Circle

Brainspace: Strategies for Coping with Negative Thoughts

Two Way Coping Strategies for Mental Health and Substance Use Issues

"Life" Jeopardy

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

Thinking, Feeling and Coping in Challenging Scenarios

Thinking About Thinking - Thinking, feeling and behaving

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

CBT and Me Part 1: Starting with Thinking

CBT and Me Part 2: Feeling our Feelings

CBT and Me Part 3: Changing Behaviors

Realistic Self Talk

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

Five Key Aspects of Appropriately Managing Feelings

The Great Lie of Anxiety

Positive Self Statements Coping Collection

Shift to a Positive Focus

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

Keeping it Positive: "I Love it When a Plan Comes Together"

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...

Self Esteem Boost: Building Self Esteem and Increasing a Sense of Self Worth

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

Difficult Feelings: Dissect and Deal

Forgiveness Part 1 : Forgive, Live and Love - Part 2: Divisions of Forgiveness - Part 3: Some Thoughts to Help Cope

Drop the Rocks - Resentment activity

READ: Nicole Tierney on Forgiveness

READ: Emotional Self-Prevention - Looking at sensitive areas

"The Feeling"

Retelling the Story


Talking Trauma...and Survival

Adverse Childhood Experiences Podcast -

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

Three P's for Coping with Anxiety in the Moment - Quick easy to remember way to cope during sudden anxiety or stress

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

Killer Bs – The Effects of Stress and the Body, Brain and Behavior

Letting Go of Regrets

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


Frozen Moments

HP Squared: Hurt People, Hurt People

Unforeseen Circumstances: Adapt or Collapse

Creating an Emotional Self Care Plan


READ: The Relationship Radar

READ: The Relationship Analogy

Readjusting Your Relationship Radar - Adjusting the way you choose relationships

The Ideal Partner - Looking at what you want out of relationships

Healthy Life - Healthy Relationships

VIDEO - Healthy Life - Healthy Relationships - Corresponding video for above worksheet

"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

READ - Is Tough Love Too Tough?

READ - Six Qualities of Healthy Couples that Stay Together

More On Relationships

Relationship Red Flags

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Find out what it means to me)

Resolving Conflicts without Anger

The Cycle of Over-functioning, Guilt, and Resentment

Escalator Sixth Floor: Managing and Avoiding Setbacks

For Counselors READ: Managing Setbacks Using the Escalator

Also: Setbacks and Engagement- A Guide for Counselors

READ: IF - Intensity and Frequency

Managing Setbacks: Group Introduction

Setback Prevention Skills for Success

Starting Over

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

Stability and Setback Prevention Checklist

The Struggle is Real

FOMO - How to Identify, Prevent and Overcome the “Fear of Missing Out”

Triggered: A Discussion on Coping with Mental Health and Substance Use 

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

Event Planning to Prevent Setbacks

Self Sabotage

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

Meaning and Purpose in the Change Process

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

Morals and Values

Moral of the Story

Values - What's Important

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

Values and Choices

Values Auction Activity

Values and Priorities

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

Desert Island

Alligator Fever

It's Easy to Be Honest When You Have Nothing to Lie About

Top 3

Duplicity: The Story of Addy

Values and CBT

Values: Past, Present and Future

I Wish

Personality Issues and Manipulation

READ - Personality Issues: The Honest Truth

READ - Slices of Truth

Getting Your Needs Met: Manipulation vs. Persuasion


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 and Medication Assisted Treatment -The Basics

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

Taking an Honest Look at Abstinence, Harm Reduction, Substitution & Cross Addiction

READ  - A Realistic Look at Substitution

READ - Straight D's -A Simple Harm Reduction and MAT Illustration

Adolescent/Young Adult Specific Worksheets and Information

For Counselors: READ: Working with Adolescents and Young People

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

Three Paths: A Discussion of Marijuana

Drug Dealing

Opinion: Venting about Vaping

Smoking Cessation Specific Worksheets:

Smoking Triggers Worksheet

Cravings and Smoking: Basic Principles

Cravings and Smoking: Skills List

Smoking Relapse Warning Signs

Nicotine Replacement Therapy Options

Smoking Quit Plan

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

Brief Group Module and Icebreaker Collection 2 - More

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

Give the Gift of Kindness and Hope

Fill in the Blanks Discussion Generator

Fun Facts - Group Cohesion Building with some substance use and mental health info

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

Hello Neighbor

Image Narrations

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

3A's - Appreciation, Assessment & Advice

Adjective Anecdotes

Cohesion Cards

Group Profile

One Thing

The Honesty Game

Group Awards

Group Goal

Group Share Battle

Positive Vibes

Caption This

Clothes Minded

Topic Turnaround

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

The Randomizer

Remember When...

The Gratitude Grid

Funny Questions

"Roll Play"...This May Get Dicey

Yankee Swap Icebreaker

What You Should Know About Me

Incoming Text Icebreaker

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 superheroes just for fun

Escalator Jeopardy - A comprehensive educational review in relaxed game format

Group Topics, Ideas and Worksheets for Closing Group

Group Close Out Ideas

Discussion Outline for Speakers or Video

End of the Day Review

Life Story Outline

Topics for Art or Journaling

Motivational Minute

Weekend Relapse Prevention Plan

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 Logo

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

Podcast - A Story of Recovery and Hope: Nicole Tierney

Podcast - Melissa Mackolin's Recovery Journey

Podcast - Megan Reeves "Hold On Pain Ends" with discussion questions

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

Submitted by Lesley SanFilippo, LCSW: