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New Approach for Substance Abuse among African-Americans

A new study examined the effectiveness of a motivational counseling approach to treat substance abuse among African-Americans.

The study found that African-American women benefited from the approach as they were more likely than men to continue counseling—however, their substance abuse issues continued.

The study compared two clinical approaches to treating substance abuse among African Americans — Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) and Counseling as Usual (CAU).

The study used information discovered by the Clinical Trials Network of the National Institute of Drug Abuse examining both retention rates and the effectiveness of MET in reducing drug abuse, specifically among African-Americans.

Motivation Enhancement Therapy is a behavioral change approach that assesses an individual’s readiness to live a substance-free life or whether they’re against any treatment.

The approach is particularly designed to address the ambivalence surrounding substance abuse treatment. “The idea of MET is for counselors to help patients build motivation and strengthen commitment to behavior change,” Montgomery says.

“One technique that is commonly used in MET to facilitate this process is the use of decisional balance exercises which help patients examine the pros and cons of substance use.”

“An example would be a patient discussing what he or she considers the ‘pros’ of substance use, such as drinking alcohol to reduce anxiety,” explains Montgomery.

“However, despite its ability to help reduce the patient’s anxiety, the patient might also acknowledge that heavy drinking negatively influences their interpersonal relationships.”

Montgomery added, “The task of the therapist in this situation would be to help the patient develop more reasons to change and identify more effective ways to reduce anxiety.”

Unfortunately, substance abuse issues are more prevalent among African-Americans than other groups – a finding that extends not only in terms of health but also in the legal system.

In the current research, researchers compared the effectiveness of motivational enhancement therapy compared with counseling as usual over a 16-week period.

The participants in the study were 194 African-Americans who were seeking outpatient substance abuse treatment at five different community-based treatment programs across the nation.

The study included 146 African-American males (75.3 percent) and 48 females (24.7 percent), with the age of the participants averaging 37.5 years old. They were seeking treatment for issues such as cocaine abuse (25.8 percent), alcohol abuse (26.3 percent) and marijuana abuse (18 percent).

The study revealed higher retention rates among women in the motivational enhancement training (MET) than in traditional therapy. However, the new approach did not change retention patterns among men.

“Previous studies have suggested that ethnic minorities in MET report more success in reducing substance abuse than non-ethnic minorities, but the studies combined several ethnic groups,” explains Montgomery.

“This research was examining the effectiveness of the treatment specifically for African-Americans.”

“I think MET has a lot of value, in terms of being non-confrontational and non-judgmental as well as supporting self-efficacy,” Montgomery says. “We found that the women stayed in MET treatment longer, but they didn’t reduce their substance use. That’s where my research is taking me now.”

The study, led by LaTrice Montgomery, a doctoral student in the University of Cincinnati Department of Psychology, is published in Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

Source: University of Cincinnati

New Approach for Substance Abuse among African-Americans

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). New Approach for Substance Abuse among African-Americans. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 18 Oct 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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