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Keywords:

  • Substance Abuse Treatment Processes

This study examines the linkages in the treatment process chains that are thought to underlie two prevalent approaches to substance abuse treatment, traditional 12-Step treatment and cognitive-behavioral treatment. The focus is on the “proximal outcomes” specified by the two treatment approaches and their relation to “ultimate” substance use outcomes assessed at a 1-year follow-up. A total of 2687 men who received treatment in 15 Department of Veterans Affairs substance abuse treatment programs were assessed at treatment entry, at or near discharge, and at a 1-year follow-up. Based on the results of factor analyses, composite proximal outcomes variables were constructed to assess 12-Step cognitions, 12-Step behaviors, cognitive-behavioral beliefs, substance-specific coping, and general coping. Correlation analyses indicated that some of the proximal outcome composites assessed at treatment discharge were linked to 1 -year outcomes, but the relationships were weak (r= .09 to .15). At follow-up, the cross-sectional relationships between the proximal outcome composites and two substance use outcomes were stronger, but still modest in magnitude (r= .16 to .39). The weak predictive findings suggest some mechanism is needed to sustain treatment-induced change on proximal outcomes so that positive ultimate outcomes can be achieved more frequently. In this regard, participation in continuing care was associated with enhanced maintenance of treatment gains on proximal outcomes. However, the modest cross-sectional relationships between proximal and substance use outcomes at follow-up suggest that the theories on which 12-Step and cognitive-behavioral substance abuse treatments are based are not sufficiently comprehensive.