The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Personal Network Interview As Intervention for Women With Substance Dependence

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 001B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Suzanne Brown, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Elizabeth M. Tracy, PhD, Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Purpose:  The social context of women’s substance abuse has been an important focus for researchers and treatment providers.  Frequently introduced to substance use through partners, family members and close friends (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2007), women’s substance use has been shown to be deeply situated within their personal relationships (Curtis-Boles & Jenkins-Monroe, 2000; Davis & DiNitto, 1998; Kissin, et. al., 2001).  Substance using network members may compromise women’s recovery process (Warren et al 2007, Wenzel et al 2009) as well as contribute to continuing emotional distress which may compromise recovery (Dawson et al, 2007).  Tracy and Johnson (2007) found that women with substance use and co-occurring mental disorders experienced less support and less reciprocity from their networks than women with a substance use disorders only, thus compounding vulnerability to relapse during recovery.  This study examined the experiences of women in treatment for substance dependence and their treatment providers regarding personal networks and women’s recovery.  The aim of this study was to utilize focus group data to inform the design of a social network intervention that would be realistic and feasible within substance abuse treatment programs.

Methods:  Study participants were recruited from a larger NIDA funded longitudinal study that used a computer software program, EgoNet, to assess the characteristics of women’s personal networks at four time-points-one week, one month, six months, and one year following treatment intake.  Six focus groups were conducted at three agencies currently enrolled in the larger study, three groups of agency clinicians (N=21) and three groups of women in treatment from each agency (N=17).  The following questions were examined:  1. In what ways did completing the personal network interview help you to understand your personal network better?; and 2.  What kind of people are important in a social network for women in treatment? Participants were also shown a personal network map generated by EgoNet and asked to evaluate its potential usefulness as part of an intervention.  Responses were audio taped and transcribed verbatim.  Thematic analysis guided the data coding and two coders used an iterative process to identify major themes. 

Results:  Participants reported that their personal network interviews had increased their understanding of multiple aspects of their networks, including the supports they did have, the actual individuals with whom they had consistent contact, the quality of those relationships, and the direction of help in these relationships-whether one sided or reciprocal.  Awareness of their ability to make choices in relationships was also identified as an important outcome of their network interviews.  Important qualities in network relationships included reciprocity, mutual trust, positive influences beyond sobriety, and honesty. 

Implications:  These findings suggest the potential usefulness of personal network interviews as one facet of intervention for women with substance dependence. Effective interventions with this population might include psycho-education on the structure and uses of personal networks, a tool for monitoring network change over time, and interpersonal skill building. Future research might develop and evaluate the effectiveness of social network interventions to long-term recovery for women with substance dependence.