Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

A Preliminary Examination of a Strengths-Based Treatment for Adolescent Substance Use Issues/Examen Préliminaire D'un Traitement Axé Sur Les Forces Destiné Aux Adolescents Ayant Des Troubles Liés À la Toxicomanie

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

A Preliminary Examination of a Strengths-Based Treatment for Adolescent Substance Use Issues/Examen Préliminaire D'un Traitement Axé Sur Les Forces Destiné Aux Adolescents Ayant Des Troubles Liés À la Toxicomanie

Article excerpt

Substance use among adolescents continues to be a major public health concern. While many adolescents use substances in moderation, others become preoccupied with their substance use and develop patterns of maladaptive use that can have harmful biological, psychological, and social effects on adolescent development (Squeglia, Jacobus, & Tapert, 2009). Research shows that 11.4% of adolescents develop a substance use disorder (SUD) and that these individuals are at increased risk of having comorbid mental health issues, most notably anxiety, mood, and behavioural disorders (Merikangas et al., 2010). Given the prevalence of adolescents suffering from maladaptive substance use and the adverse consequences associated with it, ongoing development of evidence-based treatment is important.

To date, various treatment programs that differ in both therapeutic modality and service intensity (e.g., outpatient versus residential services) have been implemented for the treatment of adolescent substance use issues. The most prevalent therapeutic modalities in the literature include 12-step-based programs, family-based therapy, behavioural therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), motivational-based therapy, therapeutic community interventions, and pharmacotherapy, with most treatment programs following an eclectic approach, utilizing components from several of these treatment modalities (Winters, Botzet, & Fahnhorst, 2011). Despite research evidence supporting the use of some of these treatment programs, continued research in this area is imperative (Winters, Botzet, Fahnhorst, Stinchfield, & Koskey, 2009). Adolescent substance use issues remain a particularly challenging problem to address, as many adolescents attend treatment but drop out prematurely or quickly relapse following treatment completion (Hser et al., 2001; Marcus et al., 2013; Schroder, Sellman, Frampton, & Deering, 2009; Waldron & Turner, 2008). Numerous comorbid mental health issues have been shown to predict poor treatment outcomes, including depression, behaviour problems, trauma, abuse, family issues, and negative peer influences (Anderson, Ramo, Schulte, Cummins, & Brown, 2007; Funk, McDermeit, Godley, & Adams, 2003; Schroder et al., 2009; Subramaniam, Stizer, Clemmey, Kolodner, & Fishman, 2007; Subramaniam, Stitzer, Woody, Fishman, & Kolodner, 2009; Winters, Stinchfield, Latimer, & Stone, 2008). These findings suggest that an important aspect of treatment would involve addressing these comorbid issues in addition to providing strategies for reducing/abstaining from substances.

In recent years, the strengths-based approach has become more prominent in child and adolescent mental health treatments (Biswas-Diener, Kashdan, & Minhas, 2011). For example, the strengths-based approach has been applied successfully to youth who have intellectual difficulties and have engaged in sexually abusive behaviours, as well as with youth engaging in oppositional defiant behaviours (Ayland & West, 2006; Day-Vines & Terriquez, 2008). What makes the strengths-based approach inherently different from other approaches is its primary emphasis on client strengths and resources as opposed to client deficits or presenting issues; this perspective allows for a more complete picture of individuals. Individual strengths can be defined as "a set of developed competencies and characteristics embedded in culture that are valued both by the individual and by society" (Rawana & Brownlee, 2009, p. 2). The goal of strengths-based clinical practice is to help youth facilitate improvements in problem areas through a more purposeful and effective utilization of their personal strengths and positive resources. As Jones-Smith (2013) pointed out, strengths-based therapy should create a strengths-building environment by which the clients can recognize and appreciate their strengths. Working from this perspective is in accordance with the adolescent stage of development because adolescence is a period of time that is defined by growth, learning, and skill development-processes that the strengthsbased approach strives to encourage (Lerner, Almerigi, Theokas, & Lerner, 2005; Lewin-Bizan, Bowers, & Lerner, 2010). …

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