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Developing brief measures of motivation to abstain from substance use that reliably predict treatment retention and outcome is a high priority in the addiction field. This study examined the psychometric properties of a contemplation ladder designed to assess readiness to abstain from alcohol and drug use respectively, on the basis of the contemplation ladder for smoking cessation developed by Biener and Abrams (1991). Participants were 394 substance-using male and female welfare recipients referred for treatment. The combined alcohol and other drug (AOD) ladder showed discriminant validity with demographic and health characteristics, convergent validity with conceptually related treatment motivation variables, concurrent validity with baseline AOD treatment and substance use variables, and predictive validity for participation in treatment services up to 1 month later and abstinence outcomes up to 1 year later. The AOD ladder showed predictive validity for those in drug-free treatment and no treatment at baseline but not for those in methadone maintenance.