As I reported in my last blog, there has been growing interest at Spectrum in developing a research capability to explore and enhance the organization’s understanding of treatment processes and further improve program effectiveness. As part of Spectrum’s increased focus on research, I have conducted a survey with a small group of my senior colleagues to help inform Spectrum’s current research initiative and suggest strategies to maximize benefits to the programs and contributions to the treatment field. The survey results are the basis of my current blog series.
This blog focuses on the survey question, “What are the major unanswered questions in treatment research?” As Spectrum considers how best to engage and expand its research work, it is important to consider what experienced researchers view as the areas needing attention and to identify where the field is heading.
There was a general consensus that important research questions include:
(1) How can we develop treatment that combines neurobiology, psychology and social understandings?
(2) Can clinicians improve treatment models and practices?
(3) What is the treatment dosage needed for effective outcomes?
(4) What works best with different populations (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, drug of choice, etc.)?
(5) How can we attain a better understanding of early drug use and its effect on negative behavior and trajectory of further addiction?
(6) How can we increase motivation for treatment and recovery?
(7) How can organizations be open and responsive to operational change?
These questions are fundamental to the field and on the forefront of what highly respected researchers believe need attention. As I noted in my last blog based on the research survey, treatment programs need to be more proactive in helping set the research agenda and identifying the key research questions above is an important first step in positioning Spectrum in that discussion.
An important area of unanswered research questions identified in our survey was implementation research that studies how to introduce and sustain best practices with fidelity. There is a growing awareness in the field that while a number of treatment approaches have been identified as “evidence-based treatment,” practitioners are slow to implement them. Spectrum is a strong exception since implementation of evidence-based models of treatment is a hallmark of our approach to programming. This is a major strength that places Spectrum at the forefront of valuable research sites that invites research and enhances our credibility as a research-oriented organization.
As I mentioned in the first blog of this series on out survey of senior researchers, I feel strongly that treatment research needs programs to be full partners at all stages of the research process, starting with the questions needing study all the way through to interpretation and publication of results.
Upcoming blogs based upon this survey will focus on where treatment research is going in the next five to ten years and what role treatment organizations such as Spectrum can play in the advancement of treatment and recovery knowledge.