Methods: Qualitative methods through grounded theory were utilized to produce thick descriptions via ethnographic observation at three substance abuse treatment programs. Those consisted of an inpatient, mixed-gender medical model program (N=144, average length of stay 7-10 days), as well as a men-only (N=62) and a women-only (N=32) social model residential program where clients spend an average of 2-3 months with minimal professional infrastructure (Borkman, 1984; Shaw & Borkman, 1990). All transcripts of contact generated from the abovementioned observations were then entered into NVivo to facilitate qualitative data analysis by organizing, searching, and coding data as well as generating theory. Coding occurred throughout the study in an iterative process. Open coding was followed by axial and theoretical coding (Charmaz, 2006) to discern linkages between client-client and client-staff interactions and clients' stage status. Next, those qualitative data were triangulated via t-tests and chi squares to compare clients' demographic characteristics and other categorical variables with clients' stage status across the three treatment settings.
Results: A key finding was that medical model patients bifurcated into two distinct cohorts, half of whom remained in the precontemplation stage while the rest demonstrated aspects of the preparation stage. Overall, social model recipients progressed further along the stages of change than did medical model recipients. Client-staff interactions evinced greater therapeutic benefit in the medical model, whereas client-client interactions were the primary means of treatment delivery in the social model. Lastly, peer helping hours (a ratio variable for client-client interaction) were significantly greater for male social model recipients than for females.
Implications: These findings illumine the respective benefits of client-to-client and client-to-staff interactions within the complex environments of residential substance abuse treatment. Moreover, they demonstrate the utility of the Transtheoretical model as a gauge for measuring clients' receptivity to a range of treatment interventions. Last, the findings suggest future directions for comparative research on models of treatment and the influence of gender effects in diverse substance abuse treatment settings.