Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

58P Assessing Program Fidelity of a Faith Community Leadership Training to Support Recovery From Substance Use Disorders

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Dnika J. Travis, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Joy Learman, MSSW, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, American Samoa
Drew Brooks, Director, Faith Partners, Inc, Spicewood, TX
Richard Spence, PhD, Research Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose: For many individuals, spirituality and religion are important components of treatment for and successful recovery from substance use disorders (Fallot, 2007; Heinz, Epstein & Preston, 2007). While there are many paths to recovery, recognition is growing for the vital role that faith communities play in this process. Thus, it is essential that faith communities are ready to provide needed support and develop programs that fit the norms and attitudes of those most affected by the potential change. Hence, this study sought to: (a) to assess congregational readiness to support substance abuse recovery and (b) to examine the fidelity of an organizational-level initiative designed to build the capacity of faith communities to support substance abuse recovery.

Methods: This study employed a quasi-experimental research design that included 45 congregations across the US who participated in a 18 to 24-month leadership and congregation team ministry development program. Congregations were surveyed at baseline (n=3649) and 24 months later (n=1284), and among those 35% completed the program fidelity measure at post-test. Congregational readiness was measured by members' perception of their congregations readiness to help those who have alcohol or drug problems. The fidelity measure (completed by team facilitator) captured information on key program domains, including: congregational leadership, team development, ministry development, programming and infrastructure. Fidelity scores were calculated for each domain by employing a well-known method that utilizes z-scores to standardize program scores. Scores were then coded as high fidelity (above the mean) or low fidelity (below the mean). Data were analyzed using hierarchical multiple regression. Results: Congregational readiness scores increased significantly (62% change) for congregations scoring high in total fidelity across all domains, as well as those scoring high in congregational leadership (60% change) (p<. 05). The congregational leadership sub-categories, clergy and lay leadership, proved to play an influential role. In the more process-oriented fidelity domains findings were mixed with some increases and decreases in readiness scores. This included a 60% and 30% change (p < .05) due to ministry development and infrastructure fidelity, respectively.

Conclusions and Implications: Faith communities serve as an important path to recovery from substance use disorders. The study findings shed light on the importance of assessing congregational readiness to institute programs in support of recovery. Also, the findings identified program fidelity as being imperative in increasing congregational readiness and ensuring that program activities are effective. It is our hope that this study launches further research into the factors associated with congregational readiness to engage in recovery efforts, so more individuals struggling with substance use disorders will find the support they need when they turn to their faith community for help.

References: Fallot, R.D. (2007). Spirituality and religion in recovery: Some current issues. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 30(4), 261-270. Heinz, A., Epstein, D.H. & Preston, K.L. (2007). Spiritual/religious experiences and in-treatment outcome in an inner-city program for heroin and cocaine dependence. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 39(1), 41-49.