Study uses Facebook groups to aid parents of adolescents in recovery | Addiction Professional Magazine Skip to content Skip to navigation

Study uses Facebook groups to aid parents of adolescents in recovery

May 19, 2017
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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For many, social media has become an indispensable tool for staying connected with family and friends. A new study being conducted by a principal investigator at UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs now aims to determine if social media can help parents become more engaged in their adolescent children’s recovery from substance use disorder as well.

Marya Schulte, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, is developing a Facebook-based intervention to provide parents with resources to help them better support their children in recovery. The program is being funded by a two-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Schulte tells Addiction Professional that she began developing the concept after working on a project for another investigator at UCLA. A great deal of feedback from providers in the focus groups she conducted centered on the idea that parents weren’t providing the support adolescents in recovery needed.

“[The providers] voiced a lot of frustration that the adolescents they worked with seemed to be doing great and, by the end, they were motivated and seem to want to be in recovery, but it was difficult to get buy-in and engagement from parents,” Schulte says. “And when we don’t have that, kids tend to go back to their regular lives, nothing really changes at home, and they relapse.”

Schulte says she recognized that in addition to stigma and shame, other barriers keeping parents from being more engaged in their adolescent children’s recovery were logistical. With many parents unable to consistently be present for treatment, the Facebook intervention, called PURPOSE (Parents United with Responsive Parents for Online Support and Education), brings support to them in the form of a private, peer-led group on the social media platform.

Schulte aims to have 80 participants in the eight-week study, half of which will be randomly placed into one of two 20-member PURPOSE Facebook groups. (The other 40 participants will be placed in an “assessment only” control group that does not participate in the Facebook groups.) The PURPOSE groups’ peer leaders will be based in Los Angeles, but parents in the study will come from across the country, with the only requirements for participation being that the parent has a child between the ages of 13 and 18 in treatment and that they have an active Facebook profile.

Throughout the eight-week program, the peer leaders will guide discussions and share a variety of support materials, including videos, articles and online resources. Participants are not required to post or engage in discussions, and they have the option of using an alternate Facebook profile to conceal their identity.

A second assessment will be conducted at the end of the eight-week period to inquire about issues such as:

  • Adolescent treatment status and parental engagement in treatment
  • Parent perceptions about their child’s treatment and relapse/recovery
  • Feelings of shame and stigma surrounding addiction
  • Parents’ own well-being and family relationships
  • Satisfaction with participation in the PURPOSE group (only for those chosen to participate in the Facebook groups)

Results will be compared to baseline assessments conducted at the outset of the project to determine the program’s effectiveness in increasing parents’ engagement in their child’s recovery.

Providers interested in referring parents of patients for potential participation in the PURPOSE study can contact Marya Schulte at



Curious if the researchers have tried to implement telehealth so the parents can have live face-to face sessions with their teen and therapist when travel distance prevents them from attending regularly?