Abstract: Clinician Perspectives on an Integrated Adolescent Substance Use and Suicide Treatment (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

502P Clinician Perspectives on an Integrated Adolescent Substance Use and Suicide Treatment

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Christina Sellers, PhD, Assistant Professor, Simmons University, Boston, MA
Sky Gavis-Hughson, BA, Research Assistant, Simmons University, Boston, MA
Carly Burton, MSW, Associate Professor of Practice, Simmons University, Boston, MA
Kimberly H. McManama O'Brien, PhD, Clinical Researcher, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA
Jennifer Merrill, PhD, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI
Anthony Spirito, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, Providence, RI
Background and Purpose: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 10-14 and the third leading cause of death for youth aged 15-24. Up to 46% of adolescents who attempt suicide report being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Despite the functional interrelationship between suicide and substance use in adolescents, there are no evidence-based interventions addressing suicide risk for adolescents in substance use treatment. The purpose of this study is to develop and test an intervention targeting suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB) among adolescents in outpatient substance use treatment. In the first phase of this study, we conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with clinicians at an adolescent outpatient substance use program to understand how they currently address STB. The findings of this phase will inform the development of the integrated Suicide Intervention for Teens who use Substances (iSITS), which will be evaluated through a pilot trial in subsequent phases.

Methods: Participants in this study phase were 5 clinicians (3 social workers and 2 psychiatrists) working at an outpatient substance use clinic in a major Northeastern city (Average years practiced=9.4; 80% female; MAge=42). Clinicians participated in 60-minute in-depth semi-structured interviews over Zoom to explore their experiences working with adolescents with STB. Clinicians were also presented with components of the integrated Alcohol and Suicide Intervention for Suicidal Teens (iASIST) and asked for feedback on adapting a similar model for their setting. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. A codebook was developed with both deductive codes from the interview guide and inductive codes from topics participants shared. All transcripts were double-coded. Data were entered into Nvivo12 for analysis.

Results: Interviews revealed that these clinicians are addressing STB, but they do not use a consistent evidence-based or integrated framework, and three out of five clinicians identified their own anxiety in addressing STB as a barrier to treatment provision. While all clinicians reported engaging in suicide screening, risk assessment, and safety planning, no single validated tool is used across the clinic for these purposes. These clinicians are already using many of the components of iASIST including assessing and enhancing motivation for change and goal-setting, but not connecting these elements to suicide. Clinicians felt that additional training around formalized safety planning and other aspects of an integrated treatment protocol would be helpful. The most consistent concern expressed by clinicians was having the time and resources to effectively implement an integrated intervention.

Conclusions and Implications: Our findings suggest that clinicians providing outpatient substance use treatment to adolescents already have many of the clinical skills to effectively address STB in this population. However, integrated treatments are needed to systematically address STB in adolescents in substance use treatment. Integrated treatment for substance use and STB can build on clinicians’ existing skills, boost clinician confidence, and help adolescents better understand the connection between their substance use and STB. The clinicians interviewed provided valuable feedback on iASIST that will be used to develop iSITS for use in outpatient substance use treatment settings.