As the opioid epidemic continues, one technique that more and more emergency rooms are adopting may be one of the most effective ways of treating drug abuse. Researchers from the University of Michigan Addiction Center and Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation recently published a study in the journal Addiction about the benefits of motivational interviewing. Trips to the emergency room may be the perfect time to intervene on drug abusers. The study interviewed almost 800 people in Flint, Michigan for the study.
Motivational interviewing is a type of counseling where the therapist engages intrinsic motivation within the client to change behavior. It is goal-oriented and client-centered where behavior changes happen when therapist and client work to explore and resolve ambivalence. Motivational interviewing accepts the fact that clients will approach counseling and therapy at different levels of readiness and meets them where they are. Motivational interviewing is non-judgemental, non-confrontational, and non-adversarial.
The researchers interviewed the nearly 800 people in the study who came to the emergency room for other issues. Based on their answers on a health survey, the researchers then assigned two-thirds of the participants to an intervention using motivational interviewing. After the emergency room visit, researchers followed up with the participants three times in the year after their initial visit. Urine tests were conducted to monitor if the participants were truthful about their drug use.
Researchers used therapists or a tablet with a virtual therapist for the motivational interviewing with the participants in the study. With the therapists, members spoke for about a half-hour while the virtual therapists were used for a few minutes. Data from the study suggested that the drug abuse that the participants disclosed dropped after speaking with the therapist or using the tablet.
In a press release from the University of Michigan, participants with drug addiction spoke with the therapist reported “significantly fewer days of drug use.” The participants who used the virtual therapists showed fewer days of marijuana use. Previous studies, however, demonstrated that the effectiveness of emergency room motivational interviewing did not lessen drug abuse, the study author, Frederic Blow, Ph.D., thought otherwise. The data showed that if motivational interviewing is “done well” drug abuse can decline.
The researchers worked with a technology firm to create the virtual therapist called HealthiER You. Participants were recruited from the emergency room of the Hurley Medical Center. According to the press release, the participants were low-income adults in their 30s. Previous studies showed that motivational interviewing in the emergency room curbed alcohol use. Dr. Blow added that he and his team believe that motivational interviewing can work for all populations and can help therapists figure the “best options for each person and supports them with electronic or personal contact that forms a real connection over time.”
By Cheryl Werber