When people complete a substance abuse program, they are often provided with some form of continuing support to help them transition back to society or back to their previous life without the use of drugs or alcohol. Although continuing support through counseling, group therapy, or other programs of accountability and acceptance have been shown to help decrease relapse, there is still little research examining what components of continuing care work and how. Therefore, David Farabee of the Integrated Substance Abuse Programs and the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California in Los Angeles recently led a study that looked at one commonly used approach in the maintenance of drug abuse treatment. Farabee chose to focus on telephonic support and selected a sample of 302 individuals who recently completed treatment for drug dependency. Upon completion of their programs, the participants received aftercare counseling that included telephonic support or treatment as usual. They were assessed 12 weeks and 12 months after they completed the study.
At 3 months, the participants who received the telephonic support had significantly lower drug composite measures than those who received the treatment as usual. Even though Farabee included four different types of telephonic support and none provided better results than any other, the findings demonstrate that aftercare support delivered regularly is a key component to relapse prevention. When compared to in-person therapy, which can be cost prohibitive and may not be easily accessible, telephone support is a viable and effective alternative. With recent changes to the health-care system and the role the government has in providing adequate and sustainable mental health programs, Farabee hopes that these results will motivate further research in this area. He added, “Subsequent research will assess interactions between patient characteristics and counseling styles, and improved identification of which treatment graduates might be more likely to benefit from this type of continuing support.”
Farabee, D., Cousins, S. J., Brecht, M.-L., Antonini, V. P., Lee, A. B., Brummer, J., Hemberg, J., et al. (2012). A comparison of four telephone-based counseling styles for recovering stimulant users. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029572
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