Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts


The “Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy” curriculum is a literacy-free group counseling manual that uses cognitive behavioral (CBT) and rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) techniques. It guides participants through the 12 Step principles for overcoming addiction as well as related psychoeducational topics. It contains 10 lessons using art, dance, game, horticulture, drama, handicraft and music activities. It is authored by Melissa Davis-Stuebing, MA, CAC-AD 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.

It is available in English language/ US culture and Zambian culture versions. Kenyan culture and Spanish language / Latin American culture versions are being field-tested prior to availability. Download pamphlet here.


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.  Leader packs are available in both Zambian and American versions with culturally appropriate artwork and expressive arts activities respectively. 20% of your purchase will be donated to help provide for homeless youth and children. Training is FREE with purchase.

Curriculum Order Information

 All international orders must contact in advance of payment for shipping estimate.

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



REGISTER: Maryland  & ONLINE Trainings

Training is free with purchase of curriculum materials. Online trainings are endorsed by MD Board of Professional Counselors & Therapists for 4 Activity A continuing education units. Upcoming online trainings are  Saturday, July 23rd from 12PM – 4:15PM EDT and Saturday, September 17th  from 8:30am-12:45pm EDT. In-person trainings are available for groups by request in Maryland for 6 Activity A continuing education units.


A clinical study of the US version of the curriculum is published here –

Citation: Melissa Davis Stuebing, Hjördis Lorenz & Lauren M. Littlefield (2019) Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Curriculum Enhances Engagement and Treatment Outcomes for Dually Diagnosed Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/07347324.2019.1681331

This study was  also presented at the 2017 Eastern Psychological Association’s Annual Conference in Boston. Download official program here

2018-2019 ZAMBIA STUDY

A clinical study of the Zambia version of the curriculum is published here –

Citation: Lorenz, H. S.*, Stuebing, M. D.*, Nambeye, C., Lungu, G., & Littlefield, L. M. (2022). Substance use treatment using cultural arts and 12 steps: Curriculum training and community-led implementation in Zambia. In Addictive Behaviors Reports (Vol. 15, p. 100424). Elsevier BV.

*joint first authors

This clinical study was presented at the 2020 Eastern Psychological Association’s Annual Conference. Download the official program here.

Citation: Stuebing, M.D., Lorenz, H. & Littlefield, L.M. (2020, March). Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Decreases Stigma and Substance Use in Zambia. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association: Boston, MA.


This curriculum was originally developed for homeless youth in Zambia, Centtral Africa and was field-tested in 3 studies by Brittany Hynson and Hjordis Lorenz , including a longitudinal study by Allyson Grace Arnold in 2016 at Chisomo Centers.

The study was presented at the 2018 Eastern Psychological Association’s Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Download the official program here.

Citation:  Stuebing, M.D., Arnold, A. & Littlefield, L.M. (2018, March). Hope to Change: Expressive Arts in Zambia with Substance Using Homeless Youth. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association: Philadelphia, PA.

Missionary Mike Peck, CSC-AD continued running these groups as a practitioner in Zambia after field-testing ended.

Results were shared with the Ministry of Health in Zambia, and we received their endorsement for a large training of over 40 organizations across the country. After this, we followed trained organizations as they delivered it to their communities and published this study.

Why Literacy-Free?

Cultural Appropriateness

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