Professional Fields

Substance Abuse

The Strengths Approach in substance abuse treatment has been aided by the Challenge model (Wolin & Wolin, 1993) outlined from resiliency research as well as the Solution-Focused Brief Therapy model (Berg & Miller, 1992). Recently, we are joined by Motivational Interviewing (Miller & Rollnick, 1991; 2002) which has brought an important Strengths perspective into substance abuse treatment.

Substance Abuse Publications for your review

(2002) "Strength-Based Strategies for Prevention." The Blue Book. National Catholic Council on Alcoholism and Related Drug Problems, Inc.: Lafayette, IN 
Click here to download the full article

(December 2000) "The Truth about Addiction." American Bar Association - Child Law Practice Journal –, 19(10), 145-152.
Click here to download the full article

(Fall 2005). "Are Clients, not Treatment Methods, the Key to Creating Lasting Behavior Change?" ATTC Networker – Addiction Technology & Transfer Center National Office. Vol. 7 (2). 10-15.
Click here to download the full article

We believe the Strengths Approach offers help to the work of substance abuse programming for several reasons:

1. It speaks to the beginning of new behaviors ("What will you do instead of getting high?"), not the end of unwanted behaviors ("Don't use!")

2. It seeks intrinsic reasons for change, important to the client, moving our field beyond compliance to focus on behavior change and growth

3. Our Center champions micro-skills and training in direct practice strategies. We have engaged in qualitative research of video-taping substance-involved clients in short counseling sessions with staff.

[Clark, Michael D., "Qualitative Review of Staff/Client Dialogues: Transcript word counts for "talk-time" ratios" Unpublished study. Center for Strength-based Strategies. (2005)].

We've transcribed these interactions and thus were able to complete word counts. This research found that staff were out-talking clients by a 3:1 margin. For instance, in one brief (20 minute) session, there were 2,768 words were spoken between staff and client. The breakdown? The staff spoke a hefty 2,087 words out of this total while the client was allowed ony 681 words. Helpers are literally talking themselves out of effectiveness.

4. It's not only important WHO talks but WHAT is talked about. People can literally talk themselves in and out of change, and hence, staff can learn to recognize the kind of talk that leads to change. We know that the speech of the counselor/staff person sets the tone for the speech of the client, which in turn, influences the ultimate outcome. A client may come in with a certain range of readiness for change, but what the counselor/staff person says makes a difference in where the client ends up. Contact us for more information on "change talk" research.



Selected (partial) listing of previous clients of Center for Strength-Based Strategies

**Keynote addresses in bold type

Please refer to our 2010 "Training Schedule" for a listing of new consulting clients 

State of Maine, Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Substance Abuse Services and AdCare Educational Institute, Inc. Two 2 day trainings, 1) "Strength-based Strategies for Youth & Families" and 2) Advanced Strength-based Strategies and 3) Half-day Interactive broadcast from Augusta, Maine to four statewide sites "Strength-based Practice and Adolescent Issues of Emotions, Reasoning and Risk-taking.
Waterville, Maine 

Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association / Florida Juvenile Justice Association 2006 Annual Conference, Workshop – "Strength-based Practices for Addictions" 
Tampa, Florida 

Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, Center for Addiction Professionals, 1 day training, "The Science of Human Motivation: The Stages of Change Model"
Lansing, Michigan

Rappahannock Region Juvenile Justice Council – Drug Free Communities Support Grant, Half-day workshop: "Turning High-Risk to High-Yield with Strength-based Practice"
Fredericksburg, Virginia 

National Catholic Council on Alcoholism and Related Drug Problems, Inc. (NCCA) 56th Annual onference, "The Benefits to Harnessing Spirituality for Addictions Treatment" 
Savannah, Georgia 

Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association / Southern Coast Addiction Technology & Transfer Center 2005 Annual Conference, Workshop – "Strength-based Practices for Addictions"
Orlando, Florida 

Northwest Institute of Addiction Studies, 2005 Conference, "Motivating Adolescents"
Beaverton, Oregon 

Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, Substance Abuse Training Project, "Advanced Skill-Building in Motivational Interviewing" 3 one day sessions 
Lasing, MI / Sterling Heights, MI / Lewiston, MI 

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Criminal Justice Treatment Drug Court Grantee Conference. Plenary Address "Motivating Clients Towards Change"
Washington, DC

Search Institute – National Asset-Building Conference, workshop presentation: "Substance Abuse and Adolescent Development" Minneapolis,


Maui Children's Initiative- Island Multidisciplinary Substance Abuse Treatment staff 2 day workshop in "Motivational Interviewing"
(Maui County) Kahalui, Hawaii

Adolescent & Families Conference, Drugs, Alcohol & Youth - San Jose County, Calif. Drugs and Alcohol Services Division. Keynote address "Strength-based Treatment Appraoches for Adolescents & Families"
San Jose, California

University of Wyoming & State of Wyoming, Department of Health / Substance Abuse Division
2 day workshop for the Sheridan Drug Court Staff: Strengths Approach
Sheridan, Wyoming 

Northern Kentucky University- 30th Annual Kentucky School of Alcohol and Other Drug Studies, Plenary Address: Motivational Strategies for Working with Substance Involved Clients" 
Highland Heights, Kentucky 

Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA), 46th Annual Institute, (2) Invited Workshops: (1) Why Substance Involved Populations Think and Act So Differently and (2) Strength-based Practice; Finding and Amplifying Resources for Solution-Building
Austin, Texas 

National Association of Social Workers – West Virginia Chapter, 2003 Spring Conference, 2 workshops: "Why do Substance Involved Adolescents Think & Act so Differently?" and "Motivational Interviewing" 
Charleston, West Virginia 

Child Abuse Council –State of Michigan, Children's Trust Fund & North Central Michigan College, Keynote: Adolescent Development and Substance Abuse
Petoskey, Michigan 

Pejaro Valley Prevention Services, 2 day training: Motivational Interviewing
Wastonville, California 

State of Wyoming, Governor's Substance Abuse and Violent Crimes Advisory Board and the Wyoming State Advisory Council on Juvenile Justice, Plenary address: "Strength-Based Practices for Substance Abuse Populations" 
Laramie, Wyoming 

Portland State University, PSU Continuing Education Series, "Strength-Based Practices for Corrections and Addictions" 2 day training
Portland, Oregon 

2002 Annual Conference - Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association / Southern Coast Addiction Technology & Transfer Center Featured Speaker – "Strength-based Practice for Youth and Family Work" 
Orlando, Florida 

53rd Annual Symposium of The National Catholic Council on Alcoholism and Related Drug Problems, Inc. –– Plenary Address "Motivational Interviewing: Understanding the Stages of Change" 
San Antonio, Texas

State of Idaho – 18th Annual Idaho Conference on Alcohol and Drug Dependency, "Turning High-Risk to High-Yield with Strength-Based Practice"
Boise, Idaho

Mid-Atlantic Addiction Technology Transfer Center – Regional Adolescent Conference (Panel Speaker)
Richmond, Virginia

State of Oregon - Corrections Summit on Offender Alcohol and Drug Treatment Services, "Substance Abuse Treatment in the Juvenile Justice Population"
Salem, Oregon

Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association and Florida Juvenile Justice Association, Youth in Turmoil: Adolescent Treatment Conference 
Tampa, Florida

Superior Court of Guam, Pacific Juvenile Drug Court Conference – Keynote Address, "Raising Youth and Family Motivation: Strength-based Practice" 
Agana, Guam (US Territory)

Michigan Prevention Association – Annual Prevention Conference – Keynote Address, "From High-Risk to High-Yield: Strength-based Strategies for Prevention" 
Lansing, Michigan

Judicial Response to Alcohol and Other Drugs – Louis McHardy National College of Juvenile and Family Justice, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Strength-based Approaches. 
Reno, Nevada 

4th Annual Nebraska Symposium on Addictive Disorders – Keynote Address, "Turning High Risk to High Yield with Strength-based Practice. 
Lincoln, Nebraska

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Mid-Atlantic Addiction Technology Transfer Center, Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice -Mid-Atlantic Conference on Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention for Adolescents
Charlottesville, Virginia 

Northwest Addictions Treatment Conference -2nd Annual Conference, Oregon Dept of Human Services & Northwest Frontier Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC)
Portland, Oregon

Puerto Rico Addiction Technology & Transfer Center (ATTC) Two day workshop:
"Strength-based Skill Building for Substance Abuse - Cross Training for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice"
San Juan, Puerto Rico Jan.

American Probation and Parole Association and the United States Department of Health and Human Services - Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) train-the-trainer seminar, "Strength-based Treatment for Substance Abuse"
Lexington, Kentucky 

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence of Michigan (NCADD) Training Conference, Workshop Presentation, "Substance Abuse Screening for Field Staff"
Grand Rapids, Michigan