This episode will discuss digital interventions for alcohol and substance use, how clients and practitioners can use them, and the evidence behind how they can benefit clients.
In episode 6, Dr. Ruth Crowther speaks to Dr Jennifer Connolly about digital interventions for alcohol and substance use, how they can help, their effectiveness and how practitioners can incorporate them into their practice.
Dr Jennifer Connolly is a Clinical Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow at Queensland University of Technology. Jennifer has been working in psychology research for over 20 years with a focus on projects investigating novel treatments for a range of mental health problems including depression, psychosis and alcohol misuse. Over the last decade Jennifer’s work has focused on creating and testing psychological treatments delivered via technology, such as phone, online programs and apps. Jennifer is a member of the e-Mental Health in Practice team which is funded by the Australian Government to train health practitioners in the use of electronic mental health tools.
What evidence is there to support the effectiveness of digital interventions for alcohol misuse?
There have have been quite a number of reviews, metaanalysis and studies to the point where it is now possible to combine them and look at the effects overall. Generally the results demonstrate a positive effect for people using digital forms of treatment for alcohol, compared to getting no treatment or treatment as usual. There is a lot of evidence showing the online interventions are not only acceptable to clients, but they are also effective in helping clients make positive changes.
How can clients find online resources useful?
There are a number of resources available that can provide information and online assessment for people concerned about their drinking habits. These resources can help answers common questions such as; is this typical, is what I’m drinking a normal amount to be drinking, how much do other people drink, how does my drinking compare to other people and how do I know if I have a problem.
Apps can also be a useful in helping clients track their drinking in order to take stock of their drinking habits and determine if they have a problem. These resources help clients to track their drinking in standard drinks, how much they spend on alcohol and how they compare against the recommendation from the national health and medical research council.
There are also online programs and modules for people who have identified that they have a problem and are ready to make a change. These programs largely cover the initial stages of intervention exploring motivation, goals, personal values to take the first steps to make changes.
How can practitioners incorporate digital tools into their practice?
Digital mental health tools offer a great option for practitioners who potentially don’t have enough time in session to address alcohol as a secondary issue, or don’t have a lot of experience addressing alcohol issues so are lacking confidence and knowledge on the issue. Clients can be referred to digital mental health tools for alcohol to get assistance alongside treatment, with the practitioner checking in and offering support as needed, allowing sessions to focus on the primary issue.
The tracking tools can also be used by practitioners to set a baseline for clients alcohol use and track their progress as they go through treatment. These resources can also be considered as additional support between sessions or after treatment when a practitioner may not be available to provide basic counselling or advice.
Digital Mental Health for Addictions Factsheet: https://www.emhprac.org.au/resource/digital-mental-health-for-addictions/
Head to Health: https://www.headtohealth.gov.au/
Counselling Online: https://www.counsellingonline.org.au/
On Track with The Right Mix: https://apps.apple.com/au/app/on-track-with-the-right-mix/id593421148 (Apple) https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=au.gov.dva.ontrack&hl=en&gl=US (Android)
National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline: https://www.health.gov.au/contacts/national-alcohol-and-other-drug-hotline-contact
Strong Spirit, Strong Mind: https://strongspiritstrongmind.com.au/
Stay Strong: https://www.aimhistaystrong.com.au/
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