Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy

About the Curriculum

The “Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy” curriculum contains 10 lessons using art, dance, game, horticulture, drama, handicraft and music therapy. It is authored by Melissa Davis-Stuebing and edited by Dr. Lauren Littlefield.

It was specifically developed for hard-to-reach substance dependent populations who might slip through the cracks of standard therapeutic services – such as illiterate and learning disabled populations, as well as participants with social anxiety, difficulty of self expression, trauma and co-occurring disorders. This curriculum requires just 1 facilitator. It goes through each of the 12 steps, forming recovery support groups at the completion of the curriculum so change can be sustainable and community owned. The 12 steps are a set of guiding principles for the person seeking recovery from addiction emphasizing peer support, behavioral change, spiritual wholeness and the importance of community.


Each leader pack consists of a Leader Curriculum Guide, Drum Circle Instructional DVD & Long Term Effects Card Game. Because it is literacy-free, there are no workbooks needed for participants – which saves practitioners on cost in the long run.

The cost is $95 USD per leader pack. Bulk discounts are available for orders of 10 or more packs. Nonprofit discounts are also available.  Leader packs are available in both Zambian and American versions with culturally appropriate artwork and expressive arts activities respectively.

Twenty percent of your purchase will be donated to Chisomo Centers in Zambia, to help provide for the education, housing and counseling of street youth and children.

Interactive training in this curriculum is available. Email to book a training.

CoLaborers International is hoping to be the recipient of a Rotary Global Grant organized by Rotary Club of Lusaka Central and Rotary Club of Chestertown to provide a free training in January 2018 in Lusaka, Zambia. To register -


Order Information

All nonprofit orders must send their IRS determination letter via email to in advance of payment. All international orders must contact in advance of payment for shipping estimate.

$95 for corporations OR $75 for nonprofit organizations + $15 shipping & handling in the U.S.


Total Amount $


Checks can be made out to CoLaborers International (EIN:64-0960198) with “Literacy-Free 12 Step Based Expressive Arts Therapy Curriculum” on the memo and mailed to PO Box 959 Chestertown MD 21620.


Literacy-Free 12 Step Exp Arts Therapy Curriculum

This curriculum was originally developed for street youth in Zambia, Central Africa and has been used in 3 studies there by Brittany Hynson and Hjordis Lorenz , including a longitudinal study by Ally “Grace” Olkowski.

Missionary Mike Peck, CSC-AD has continued running these groups as a practitioner in Zambia after the study ended. They are a regular and important part of offerings at Chisomo Centers, drawing social work and psychology students from University of Zambia to volunteer in these groups as part of their educational attachments.

Results from studies thus far indicate relationships between self-esteem, substance use and self-diagnosis. Correlations and case studies show decline in frequency of substance use and increase in self-diagnosis and desire to change, moving from pre-contemplation stage to preparation stage of change.


In addition to Zambian studies, a clinical study was performed in the U.S. at A.F. Whitsitt Center, a State of Maryland dual diagnosis inpatient rehabilitation center by Melissa Davis Stuebing, CAC-AD and Hjordis Lorenz.

This study is being presented at the 2017 Eastern Psychological Association Conference in Boston. Download Poster Presentation of this here to view a summary of this study.

An expressive arts therapy curriculum was offered to patient volunteers in a Maryland state inpatient facility for co-occurring disorders. A Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) approved group feedback form was modified for pre/post use. Self-report results  revealed statistically significant positive increases in commitment to recovery, attitude towards making lifestyle changes, and hopefulness in the 47 participants. Compared to the facility’s total population, retention rate and likelihood of success was much greater for expressive arts participants.


Comparing pre/post data from all paired samples t-tests, statistically significant positive change was found when comparing the first pre-group lesson ratings to the last post-group lesson ratings per participant, regardless of overall attendance, for EVERY area addressed by test measure (p <.05 in all cases, N=47).  Participants reported an increase in commitment to a drug and alcohol free life [t(46)=2.117, p=.040, pre-M=4.02, post-M=4.26], expressed growth in positive attitude towards lifestyle changes [t(46) =-6.424, p<.001, pre-M=3.66, post-M=4.36] and described increased in feelings of hopefulness overall [t(46)=-4.661, p<.001, pre-M=3.40, post-M =4.00].

Positive change was also seen for 5 out of the 6 lessons offered. The only lesson not showing statistically significant change was on Steps 2 & 3 of the 12 Steps expressed through finger-painting and meditation.  Lessons on peer support utilizing handicraft modalities and on moral inventory (steps 4 & 5), utilizing horticulture, drama, and art modalities produced statistically significant change in EVERY item of the rating scale.  Music and handicraft lessons were rated as most personally helpful and highest in personal participation.

A substantial proportion of the sample completed treatment successfully at 87.2% and enrolled in follow up counseling services after discharge. While 69.4% of the overall population completed treatment successfully during the same 3 months.  Only 10.6% of sample left treatment AMA while 26.9% of the population left AMA during the same period.

After the study was completed, the MD state facility purchased the curriculum and had its practitioners trained in the curriculum. This curriculum is now a part of regular offerings at A.F. Whitsitt Center.

Why Literacy-Free?

Cultural Appropriateness

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