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Introduction to the

Tools for Coping Series

Dedication of the Tools for Coping Series

  • To all adults who are working on recovery from low self-esteem.
  • To all children reared in dysfunctional families.
  • To my own son and daughter, that they will be able to accept responsibility for their lives and accept that their parents did the best that they could knowing what they knew at the time.
  • To all readers of this series, that they will learn to cope better in life and grow in self-esteem.

What is the Tools for Coping Series?

In February 1985 I was at a program presented by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse on Adult Children of Alcoholics. She was showing a film entitled “Another Chance” about a woman in a therapy program dealing with emotional issues concerning her family of origin long locked inside of herself. I was so emotionally overwhelmed by this conference that I immediately enrolled in Sharon's "Family Restoration Workshop," a week-long therapy program for therapists who had family-of-origin issues. This program, held in the Philadelphia area, sponsored by the Caron Foundation, helped me to come to grips with the concept that: Our parents did the best they could knowing what they did at the time. We, as adults, must now take responsibility for our own lives and learn what "normal" is so that we can have healthier, more productive lives.  On returning to Tampa I initiated a weekly twelve-step support group for my clients who were adults from dysfunctional families. In this program called the SEA's Program we use the evidence based cognitive behavior therapeutic concepts along with psychodrama, Gestalt, and role playing, to cover relevant issues from my clients' lives. I wrote a weekly handout for each group, so that my clients had something for homework and ongoing personal growth. 


These one hundred fifty handouts have become the inital nine volume Tools for Coping Series. Book One, The Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous Manual - The SEA's Program is a comprehensive workbook on Self-Esteem, the recovery program from low self-esteem, the recovery lifestyle, and the twelve steps of the program. Book Two, Laying the Foundation, covers the nine behavioral patterns I identify in people with low self-esteem and dysfunctional families. Book Three, Tools for Handling Loss, covers strategies for coping with the losses experienced in life. Book Four, Tools for Personal Growth, covers issues affecting self-esteem and self-worth with strategies for improved self-health. Book Five, Tools for Relationships, covers issues that are barriers to healthy relationships with suggestions to remediate the problems. Book Six, Tools for Communications, covers the strategies for effective communication. Book Seven, Tools for Anger Work-Out, covers strategies to overcome the stranglehold anger can have on our lives. Book Eight, Tools for Handling Control Issues, covers strategies for letting go of the need to control other people, places, and things in our lives. Book Nine, Growing Down, covers strategies for healing the inner child.


What followed were six additional books: Book Ten, Tools for a Balanced Lifestyle: A Manual for a Guilt Free System of Health Living, covers relevant topics on how individuals who are struggling with eating disorder related issues can develop a lifestyle to control their weight and live a health life. Book Eleven, Pathfinder Parenting: Tools for Raising Responsible Children, covers a guidebook of strategies for parents to follow over the lifetime of their children to help give their children a chance to not only become personally responsible but also to have as high self-esteem as possible. Then there are three additional  books which I developed and used for twenty years with parents of children of children with special needs. They are: Book Twelve, Tools for Early Identification and Intervention - O-5 years, addresses signs, symptoms and early intervention strategies for children demonstrating developmental delays. Book Thirteen, Tools for Parents of Children with Special Needs, covers tips for parents on how to cope with the reality their child has a challenge needing special intervention physcially, emotionally and educationally. Book Fourteen, Getting Parents Involved in the Exceptional Education Process, covers tips for parents of children with Special Needs on how to advocate for their children in the public school system. Lastly Book Fifteen is written by my wife Connie and is I AM A GOOD STUDENT- A Study Skills Program. Connie developed these concepts and materials over her life-long career as a grade school teacher, reading teacher, and Learning Disability teacher. This book is an excellent guide for parents to utilize to help their children succeed in any school setting they find themselves.

Why Tools for Coping?

It is my belief that we counselors are often too theoretical or idealistic in our approach with our clients. We need to recognize that our clients are responsible for themselves and that all we can do is to provide a set of guidelines or emotional tools for them to keep in their own tool boxes to take out and use when necessary. The tools must be clearly marked, easily explained, readily understood, and easy to use. The tools must have specific, easy-to-read directions that result in clarity of purpose and focus. The tools must result in increased coping skills and personal functioning. The Tools for Coping Series is a set of books that functions as a tool box or reference manual of what "normal" is for the readers. It can be used over and over again. The best tools we can give our clients are those that pass the test of time. It is my hope that each chapter and unit in the Tools for Coping Series will prove to be a useful tool, improving personal, emotional, and interpersonal functioning and coping.

How to use the books in the Tools for Coping Series

Each book in the series is intended to be a self-directed, insight-producing tool of self-improvement. The outline of each chapter in each book assists the readers with self-assessment as to the impact of each issue on their lives. Not every item listed will apply directly to each reader. Just check those items which you feel are true for you. This check-off process will help you recognize issues that may be inhibiting your personal growth in self-esteem. At the close of almost all of the chapters in the books of the series is a section called "Steps to." This is a guide to assist the readers in dealing with those relevant items. The readers will use a separate notebook or journal to respond to the questions in the “Steps to” sections. This journal will be the readers' own words for self-improvement. On completing the “Steps to'”section in the journal, each reader will have identified strategies to improve personal functioning and lessen the negative impact of low self-esteem. 


Use of a journal

With the books in the Tools for Coping Series, the readers are expected to use a journal to respond to the "Steps to" sections. In the journal the readers can also record their emotional response to the material presented in the books. In this way, daily journal responding can make the use of the books a self-healing experience, opening the readers to emotions and feelings either repressed, suppressed, ignored, non-identified, or unknown for years. This opening up of oneself to feelings is a way of freeing oneself to experience personal growth and well-being. Using the Tools for Coping Series books as catalysts to open up these emotions is a process involving the readers in studying the material, checking off the items relevant to self, responding to the “Steps to” sections of each chapter, and also keeping a daily log of emotions and feelings. This journal can either be written in a notebook or audio recorded and saved for later reference. 


Daily journal entry outline

Stimuli from reading about the various issues covered in the Tools for Coping Series books include:

  • What incidents have occurred recently to bring up this issue for me?
  • How did I deal with this issue?
  • What were my feelings at the time?
  • What are my feelings now?
  • How could I have handled my response to this issue better or in the future?
  • What plans can I develop to rectify my response to this issue?


I would first like to thank my clients in the SEA's Program in my practice for field testing all of the concepts in this book and the other Tools for Coping Series books.


I want to thank and acknowledge my wife, Connie, for participating jointly in our journey of recovery as we both learned to let go of control of our children and each other and survived miraculously in the process.


I want to acknowledge and thank Annette Kemp, my administrative assistant, whose patience, dedication, and loyalty initially made the Tools for Coping Series books come into reality when they were originally published by Kendall Hunt Publishers.


I want to recognize and thank my children, Melissa and Steven, who have flourished in the transition from over-control by their parents into personal responsibility taking and personal self-control. You guys are what this is all about. I love you both.


Lastly I want to thank all of our faithful readers of the Tools for Coping Series when they first appeared on and who made our website extremely popular and well received. It was this faithfulness of our readers on the web which resulted in being sold in 2008 to Design Media. Unfortunately when over 100 articles from were eventually moved to Design Media's website the Tools for Coping Series as books was lost. In 2009 we immediately created to become the new home of the Tools for Coping Series. Our web readers encouraged us to relocate the books one last time to a site which would be clearly identified to easily refer others without the confusion of the name of the site. So here we are today locating the Tools for Coping Series on its new home of My hope is that you all will continue to use our tools and share them with others freely.


My sincere thanks to you all for your readership loyalty and support for one of Connie’s and my live's project. We dedicate this new site on our own 38th wedding anniversary as a sign of our committment to keep upgrading and making as current as possible for you all.


Jim Messina

August 4, 2011


About the Author of the Tools for Coping Series

James J. Messina, Ph.D., CCMHC, NCC is a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor and licensed counseling psychologist in Florida. He is currently a Lecturer in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Troy University Tampa Bay Site in Tampa, Florida. He is the co-founder and past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and past chairman of the National Academy of Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselors (NACCMHC). He is also a past board member of both the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). He is the past recipient of the AMHCA Counselor of the Year and the ACA Professional Development Award. He has authored Marriage Work-Out and sixteen other books and numerous journal and professional articles.


The Tools for Coping Series began to be written in 1985 after Jim began his own personal recovery program. He has field tested all of the materials in a twelve-step support program he has conducted in his clinical practice, his various consulting assignments over his career, and his clinical teaching and supervision from 1985 to present.