How Group Factors Affect Adolescent Change Talk and Substance Use Outcomes: Implications for Motivational Interviewing Training

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Abstract

Clients who verbalize statements arguing for change (change talk [CT]) in psychotherapy are more likely to decrease alcohol and other drug use (AOD) compared with clients who voice statements in opposition of change (sustain talk [ST]). Little is known about how CT and ST are expressed in groups in which adolescents may vary in their AOD use severity and readiness to change. First, we examined how session content was associated with CT/ST, and then we looked at whether different subtypes of CT/ST were associated with subsequent AOD outcomes 3 months later. Audio recordings (N = 129 sessions) of a 6-session group motivational interviewing (MI) intervention, Free Talk, were coded. Session content was not associated with CT; however, some session content was associated with higher percentages of ST (e.g., normative feedback). Subtypes of CT (Commitment and Reason) were associated with improved AOD outcomes, whereas Ability subtype remarks were related to increased marijuana use, intentions, and consequences. Findings offer helpful guidance for clinical training and narrow in on the type of CT to try to elicit in Group MI sessions. Regardless of session content, adolescents can benefit from hearing CT during the group.

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