What Types of Therapeutic Text Messages Do People in Recovery Want?

Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is a process. Just because someone stops using does not mean he or she is recovered. Many people who undergo treatment end up relapsing because they do not have continuing care for their addiction. Recently, text messages have been introduced as a viable tool for continuing care. Short message servicing (SMS) is a relatively new technique in intervention programs, and has begun to emerge in maintenance programs as well. This approach involves sending specific messages to clients throughout their recovery to encourage and motivate them to continue in their new, healthier behaviors.

Although this method has been shown to be effective in its infancy, few researchers have stopped to ask clients what messages they think would be most effective in helping them stay clean. To address this pressing question, Frederick Muench of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University recently surveyed 50 people who were part of an outpatient addiction program. He asked them what messages would promote behavior change and be most valuable to them throughout their recovery. Muench found that nearly all of the participants supported this type of continuing care. Even though they may have changed carriers or cell phone numbers, most of the participants, even those who were indigent, had smartphones capable of receiving text messages.

Not surprisingly, the participants were in agreement about the types of messages they wanted to receive. They felt that recognition of milestones, such as number of days clean, would be helpful. Additionally, of the participants, 96% wanted a friend to be notified and 78% wanted a therapist notified if they felt they were going to relapse. Muench believes that this finding emphasizes the influence of social networking and underscores its importance in the recovery process. The participants also expressed interest in crisis messaging and were eager to have access to that type of outreach. The findings of this study gauged only individuals’ preferences for SMS, and did not assess the efficacy of such an approach. That task is reserved for future research. “Overall, results highlight the promise of using mobile interventions for addiction care and underscore the need for empirically tested models for this new medium,” Muench said.

Reference:
Muench, F., Weiss, R. A., Kuerbis, A., Morgenstern, J. (2012). Developing a theory driven text messaging intervention for addiction care with user driven content. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029963

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  • Gil e

    Gil e

    October 13th, 2012 at 4:57 AM

    Sometimes it could just be something short and sweet like hi, I’m thinking about yout to get someone refocused on their recovery.

    Just knowing that there is someone who is going to be choecking in on you and holding you accountable could be enough to get you refocused and help you stay clean.

  • Stacia

    Stacia

    October 13th, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    I find this to be an updated version of the old mentor policy propogated by programs such as AA. maybe the tables are turned a little and someone is approaching you rather than the other way around, but if it is a tried and proven method, then this could help so many people escxape dangerous situations where they may be prone to falling and slipping right off the wagon. I think that this little bit of encouragement could be very beneficial to someone who needs that extra reassurance that this is something that they can complete successfully. I think that if you dig a little deppre for most of them it will not necessarily be about what kind of text that they want, but instead just that they want that kind of contact at all.

  • Alfred

    Alfred

    October 13th, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    Do most people in recovery really want this at all?

    I mean, to me it just feels like someone that I amy or may not know getting all up in my space.

  • anne

    anne

    October 13th, 2012 at 11:49 PM

    this sounds like a great idea!after all, the texting process could be automated at the senders’ end and the recipient could benefit from such an arrangement.also adding to this method’s benefits is that texting does not cost too much.

  • Noel @ Mosio

    Noel @ Mosio

    October 14th, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    I think this makes perfect sense, especially when you consider using triggers for behavioral change (see BJ Fog’s model, even though it isn’t specific to addiction).

    Also, I wanted to point out that 99% of phones made today can send and receive text messages, you don’t need a smartphone. In fact, the ubiquity of SMS world wide is what makes it such an attractive mobile channel for health services. Thanks for the post!

  • dana

    dana

    October 14th, 2012 at 7:55 AM

    sounds like they are putting technology to some good use here. and yes, there are apps that can intimate a person of how many days they have stayed clean and all, but no everybody has a smart phone.and more importantly that lacks the human touch.actually receiving a message from your therapist’s office will definitely work much better than any automation and will keep the person going on his way to recovery and hopefully prevent any relapse.

  • Stavon

    Stavon

    October 15th, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    What kind of messge would I wnat?

    If I was going through this and recovering, then I would just want to know that there was someone out there who cared about me and who was thinking about me. Many times I have run into addicts who see their families as wanting this recovery for themselves, not for the addict. Texting that goes straight to the person who needs it will make them feel like someone out there has their best interests at heart and is looking to offer them support any time they need it.

  • Pearl

    Pearl

    October 15th, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I find that what would appeal to me more than someone reaching out to me would be to give me the ability and the connection to reach out on my own when I found that I was needing that little something extra that I couldn’t get on my own. I might need to touch base with someone simply to let them know that I am doing alright or that there is a time when I feel I need more support than others. This was, this is all on my time and my terms, but it also begins to hold me responsible for taking care of my own problems and taking responsibility for my own actions. I don’t think that this would make addicts feel alone, but I also think that this continues that sense of privacy that we all need when we are trying to take a little time for ourselves and our health.

  • fred

    fred

    October 15th, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    yes,I would love to be encouraged in my process of recovery.but I don’t want to start off another social media application for the same.I don’t want my friends to be flooded with “Oh hey, fred is now clean for 50 days, congrats!” or “fred might be relapsing in 10…9…” you get the drift.

    let us keep this serious and between the patient and the therapist and not make a mockery of someone’s recovery by publicizing it!

  • richard

    richard

    October 16th, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    we kind of have to learn to go with the flow, and if support by text, email, social media or what have you is what the patient wants, then we have to lock on to a way to make that kind of out reach work and be meaningful. this is what they are going to respond best to, what is going to best help them to make their own journey of recovery one of success over one of failure.

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