Motivational interviewing is a therapeutic process that has been gaining popularity for the treatment of addictions. The mechanisms that are involved in motivational interviewing include transforming the way in which clients talk to themselves about their addiction. Although this method has been shown to be quite promising in adult clients, less is known about its impact on adolescents. Because teenagers and young adults represent a large percentage of people who have drug and alcohol issues, it is important to explore every avenue of treatment that may provide positive outcomes. Sarah W. Feldstein Ewing of the University of New Mexico’s Honor’s Program sought to determine particular components of motivational interviewing that would result in decreased drug use in a sample of teen cannabis users.
Ewing recruited 43 adolescents with a history of cannabis use for her study and had them record statements that supported change (change talk [CT]) or countered behavior change (counterchange talk [CCT]). The participants were then presented with cannabis stimuli while they listened to their CT and CCT statements. Ewing assessed the participants’ levels of cannabis use, drug related problems, and dependence prior to the intervention and 1 month postintervention. She found that the positive self-talk, the CT, had a positive effect on treatment outcome.
Specifically, the participants had lower levels of drug use when they were exposed to CT than when exposed to CCT. In fact, the CT statements that were designed to affirm adaptive behavior change stimulated memory and introspection activity that was evident from magnetic resonance imaging conducted on the participants. This increased activation was directly linked to increases in abstinence. Ewing notes that her sample was limited because it consisted mostly of legally involved, high-risk teens and believes that future studies should a broader participant base. She also thinks that the addition of a control group would further expand her findings. However, despite those limitations, the results provide evidence that motivational interviewing is a viable approach for adults and teens alike. Ewing added, “Together, these integrative data ultimately suggest the salience of CT during adolescent cannabis interventions.”
Feldstein Ewing, S. W., McEachern, A. D., Yezhuvath, U., Bryan, A. D., Hutchison, K. E., Filbey, F. M. (2012). Integrating brain and behavior: Evaluating adolescents’ response to a cannabis intervention. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029767
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