Treatment Research Institute (TRI) investigators recently saw firsthand that addiction counselors are extremely eager for tools to improve their skills.
A research project that was financed with federal stimulus money focused on group sessions on relapse prevention, and successfully assisted counselors in bringing more task-oriented activity to what had been more loosely organized client sessions. Principal investigator Adam C. Brooks, PhD, and research coordinator Daniel J. Knoblach presented findings from a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-supported project during a first-day workshop at the National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD).
Use of multimedia toolkits over a nine-month period resulted in 61% of participating counselors expressing that they had become more confident running group sessions.
A similar TRI project is under way to improve counselor skills in 12-Step treatment for alcoholism. The toolkit discussed in the NCAD session has become a marketable product for TRI, the nonprofit institute founded by national leader A. Thomas McLellan.
In observing three Mid-Atlantic outpatient treatment facilities’ group sessions, the research team found that the three most detrimental behaviors were: poor management of the time schedule, passivity in upholding expectations of clients, and too much informal conversation without a set agenda.
Using the information in user-friendly print and video clinician’s guides, counselors were able to initiate more active skill practice for clients in their sessions, in subject areas such as refusal skills.
Brooks said that while nearly all intensive outpatient clinical hours are conducted in group settings, most training studies in clinical skills have focused on individual therapy. He and his colleague observed clinicians striving hard to do their jobs better, often under challenging circumstances.
“Counselors are hungry for feedback; this isn’t the easiest job we have them do,” Brooks said.