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Technology Transfer on Main Street

September 1, 2008
by Denise Hall, LPC, NCC, ASE
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Effective implementation of evidence-based practices takes a greater commitment than what many programs expect

Webster's defines technology as “the science of the application of knowledge to practical purposes” and defines transfer as “to cause to pass from one person to another.” So, technology transfer is the process by which we convey knowledge, skills, and abilities to providers and programs. How do we accomplish this? The first thought is usually by training; however, The Change Book from the Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) National Office emphasizes that “technology transfer's scope is much broader than just training. It involves creating a mechanism by which a desired change is accepted, incorporated, and reinforced at all levels of an organization or system.”

There is a still-held belief that if addiction treatment agencies get a day or two of training on a particular evidence-based practice, they should be ready to adopt and implement that practice right away. Agencies and professionals often underestimate the time and effort needed not only to train, but also to implement and then achieve fidelity to the model. More often than not, an agency will organize a single training but fail to build in the support for the ongoing consultation needed to achieve the necessary shift to daily practice in the organization. Agencies that provide training in this manner operate without understanding the rationale of technology transfer.

In an agency that lacks the infrastructure needed for successful technology transfer, it is common to hear a staff member report, “I was told I have to be at this training. I have no idea why I am here.” The likelihood of successful implementation of the topic to be discussed wanes with each disengaged participant. It is important to examine the technology transfer process in order to erase common misperceptions about the effort needed for technology transfer and to offer an example of what an agency might reasonably expect in an actual technology transfer project.

National support

The federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provide funding to 14 regional ATTCs, as well as the National Office. The ATTC network disseminates the most recent knowledge, skills, and attitudes regarding professional addiction treatment practice. The regional centers are tasked with bringing recent NIDA Clinical Trials Network findings and evidence-based practices to addiction professionals and programs in an expedited manner. Each ATTC has projects related to implementation of evidence-based practices that coordinate with regional needs.

Table. Prince William County board's MI implementation

Training Plan

Hours of Training

Hours of ATTC Staff and Trainers

Time Frame

Overview of EBPs


9 (6 face to face and 3 prep)

November 2005

Overview of MI


9 (6 face to face and 3 prep)

December 2005

MI skills training

24 (2 sessions@12 hours each)

60 (2 trainers × 2 sessions@12 hours each + total of 12 prep hours for both trainers)

February and May 2006

MIA:STEP (supervisory training)


18 (12 face to face and 6 prep)

June 2006

Booster for supervisors


9 (6 face to face and 3 prep)

January 2007

Follow-up for staff

12 (2 sessions @ 6 hours each)

15 (12 face to face and 3 prep)

May 2007

Total hours taping, listening to, and rating tapes


July to December 2006

Total face to face

66 hours

November 2005-May 2007

Total technology transfer hours invested in the implementation process


November 2005-May 2007

Evidence-based practices have become a buzzword in the behavioral health world. In many ways, it is helpful that we are talking the same language, but in other ways, the term tends to get thrown around without much of a sense of definition. A definition used by the Oregon Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services identifies evidence-based practices as “programs or practices that effectively integrate the best research evidence with clinical expertise, cultural competence, and the values of the persons receiving the services. These programs or practices will have consistent scientific evidence showing improved outcomes for clients, participants, or communities. Evidence-based practices may include individual clinical interventions, population-based interventions, or administrative and system-level practices or programs.”

Case example

The experience of one community treatment agency, the Prince William County (Virginia) Community Services Board, offers an idea of the effort involved in a comprehensive training plan. In this case, the evidence-based practice targeted for implementation in the organization was Motivational Interviewing (MI), a clinical practice with an extensive base of research support in its ability to engage clients in treatment.