A Novel Application in the Study of Client Language: Alcohol and Marijuana-Related Statements in Substance-Using Adolescents During a Simulation Task

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Abstract

The current study explored whether laboratory-based techniques can provide a strategy for studying client language as a mechanism of behavior change. Specifically, this study examined the potential of a simulation task to elicit healthy talk, or self-motivational statements in favor of healthy behavior, related to marijuana and alcohol use. Participants (N = 84) were adolescents reporting at least 10 lifetime substance use episodes recruited from various community settings in an urban Pacific Northwest setting. Participants completed the Adolescent Simulated Intoxication Digital Elicitation (A-SIDE), a validated paradigm for assessing substance use decision making in peer contexts. Participants responded to 4 types of offers in the A-SIDE: (a) marijuana, (b) food (marijuana control), (c) alcohol, and (d) soda (alcohol control). Using a validated coding scheme adapted for the current study, client language during a structured interview assessing participants’ response to the simulated offers was evaluated. Associations between percent healthy talk (PHT, calculated by dividing the number of healthy statements by the sum of all substance-related statements) and cross-sectional outcomes of interest (previous substance use, substance use expectancies, and behavioral willingness) were explored. The frequency of substance-related statements differed in response to offer type; rate of PHT did not. PHT was associated with behavioral willingness to accept the offer. However, PHT was not associated with decontextualized measures of substance use. Associations between PHT and global expectancies were limited. Simulation methods may be useful in investigating the impact of context on self-talk and to systematically explore client language as a mechanism of change.

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