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Psychiatr Serv. 1997 Nov;48(11):1445-9.

Clinicians' referral and matching of substance abuse patients to self-help groups after treatment.

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  • 1Center for Health Care Evaluation and Program Evaluation, Menlo Park, CA, USA.



The clinical practice guidelines for substance use disorders from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommend referral of some patients to self-help groups. The purpose of this study was to determine current patterns of referral to self-help groups in substance abuse treatment programs in the United States and compare them with referral recommendations in APA guidelines.


Directors of all 389 substance abuse treatment programs in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system completed a mailed survey on posttreatment self-help referral practices.


Survey responses indicated that a large proportion of substance abuse patients were referred to Alcoholics Anonymous (79.4 percent), with other self-help organizations receiving a smaller but significant number of referrals. Referrals to 12-step self-help organizations were more common in programs that endorsed a 12-step treatment orientation and that employed a higher proportion of staff members in recovery from substance use disorders. Consistent with APA practice guidelines, clinicians were less likely to make a referral to a 12-step self-help group if a patient was an atheist, had a comorbid psychiatric disorder, or had less severe substance abuse problems. In deciding whom to refer to self-help groups, clinicians also considered other variables that are not addressed in current practice guidelines, such as age and previous involvement in 12-step groups.


Clinicians make extensive use of self-help groups for their patients, as recommended in APA practice guidelines. However, some differences between current practice and recommended practice warrant further investigation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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