Improving Counselor Awareness of Client Sexual Risk Using Computerized Assessment & Personal Feedback

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computerSexual risk is an important, often neglected area in addiction treatment. This report in Substance Use & Misuse, by Pacific Northwest Node researchers Bryan Hartzler, Blair Beadnell, and Donald Calsyn, examines computerized sexual risk assessment and client feedback at intake as means of enhancing counselor awareness of client risk behavior during early treatment, as well as any clinical impact of that counselor awareness.

In 2009-2011, new clients at two treatment programs participating in the Pacific Northwest Node of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN) took a computer-assisted intake assessment measuring 90-day indices for: being sexually active, having multiple partners, having sex under the influences of drugs, and inconsistently using condoms.

Clients were randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to receive or not receive a personal feedback report; those receiving a report could then choose whether or not to provide their counselors with a copy. The assessment was repeated 90 days later.

Based on client reports, pretreatment risk behaviors were prevalent among men and women and remained so during treatment. Counselors were more aware of their clients’ risk behaviors if both they and the client received the personal feedback report. However, counselor awareness did not predict change in temporally stable patterns of sexual risk behavior.

Conclusions: Findings document that computerized intake assessment of sexual risk and mutually distributed feedback reports prompt greater counselor awareness of clients’ subsequent risk behavior. Future research is needed to determine how best to prepare counselors to use such awareness to effectively prompt risk reduction in routine care.

Citation: Hartzler B, Beadnell B, Calsyn DA. Use of Sexual Risk Assessment and Feedback at Intake to Promote Counselor Awareness of Subsequent Client Risk Behavior During Early Treatment. Substance Use & Misuse 2014 (in press).


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