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What are psychologists' current perceptions of clients with substance use problems

1 December 2003


Health care systems are overwhelmed by persons with substance use, abuse, and dependency problems; yet, many health-care providers have been reluctant to treat these individuals (Lawson & Lawson, 1990). In particular, psychologists have had little involvement historically in this area (Aanavi, Taube, Ja, & Duran, 1999; Balducci, 1999). Since Americans experience substance use problems at a greater frequency than any other major class of mental disorder (Carey, Bradizza, & Stasiewicz, 1999), it appears that the necessity for psychologists to become more involved in the treatment of this population is ever-increasing. In light of this growing need, it was the purpose of this study to assess current perception or attitudes psychologists hold regarding clients with substance use problems. Participants (n=307) responded to one of two hypothetical vignettes; whereby, all information was identical except for the clients' diagnosis. Half of the participants received a vignette with a "Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent" diagnosis and the other half received a vignette with a "Substance Dependence Disorder" diagnosis. The majority of the researchers' hypotheses were supported regarding several variables, such as perceptions of chance of recovery, competency and comfort levels, clients' appropriateness for therapy and willingness to treat. The implications of the results of this study are discussed.


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