About Steps to Cope

Designed to support you when it gets tough.

What is Steps to Cope?


ASCERT provides the Steps to Cope service across Northern Ireland to 11-25 year olds living with parental alcohol, drug use or mental health problems.

This is an open access service, so anyone can make a referral. Young people can also contact us themselves for support.

We provide:

  • 1 to 1 support for young people
  • Support for parents or carers
  • Information and a self-guided self-help tool on our website
  • Awareness sessions for schools and the community
  • A participation group for young people with lived experience

It has been estimated that 40,000 young people in NI (or 1 in 11) are living with parental alcohol misuse, and 60,000-75,000 are living with parental mental ill health. Approximately 68% of women and 57% of men with mental health problems are parents. Despite the size of this issue, there have been few interventions offering dedicated support to these young people in their own right. The Steps to Cope intervention has been developed to respond to that need, providing an evidence based intervention that can be used by young people themselves or by workers supporting these young people.

Steps to Cope is an evidence based brief structured psychosocial intervention to support young people land is the first youth-focused adaptation of the adult 5-Step Method, an evidenced approach to supporting adult family members living with someone who misuses substances. (Templeton & Sipler 2014)

Steps to Cope has been shown to be effective in improving resilience, by helping young people  to talk about, understand, cope with and feel better supported to manage the impact of these challenges in their family. It can be delivered to young people in 1 to 1 and group settings and young people can also access online self-help.  Evaluation of the Steps to Cope intervention has demonstrated it is an effective approach, with data from over 100 young people who have completed the intervention indicating that nearly three quarters of them (74%) have increased resilience. (Sipler, Templeton & Brewer 2019) 

The intervention model was developed by the Steps to Cope Partnership (ASCERT, AFINetUK, the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and Barnardo’s NI). It was initially piloted in Northern Ireland in 2012 through the Regional Hidden Harm Action Plan with funding from Alcohol Research UK and the Public Health Agency, and developed into a regional project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund (formerly Big Lottery Fund) Impact of Alcohol programme from 2014 – 2019. The service is currently funded until 2024 by the Community Foundation NI through the Department of Health’s  Mental Health Support Fund


The Steps to Cope intervention model

Steps to Cope guides a young person though a process of 5 steps as outlined in the diagram below.

Requirements for organisations implementing Steps to Cope

In order to use Steps to Cope, we require that organisations agree a memorandum of understanding with the Steps to Cope partnership, which represents a commitment to actively deliver the intervention, agreeing to maintain the fidelity of the intervention model, and contributing to the further development of the evidence base by sharing anonymous data from the implementation of the intervention with the Steps to Cope partnership.

In order to use Steps to Cope practitioners must complete training. They will be provided with workbooks and other resources (including access to the online platform) that they can use with young people and administrative tools to monitor outcomes. Organisations and the practitioners will have access to advice from the developers to support them in the implementation of the intervention.

Practitioners taking part in training should be in an immediate position to use the intervention with young people and have suitable supervision arrangements in place in their organisation.

If you would like to discuss using Steps to Cope to support young people you work with, contact us at info@ascert.biz or call 0800 2545 123