Preliminary evaluation of contingent meals and telephone use to improve evidence-supported family therapy session attendance in mothers referred by Child Protective Services for substance abuse

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Persons referred by Child Protective Services (CPS) for substance abuse evidence high rates of nonattendance to therapy sessions, taxing systems of care and exacerbating outcomes. This study examined the influence of two telephone-based incentive programs on therapy session attendance in mothers who were referred by CPS for substance abuse. After baseline therapy session attendance was established in an evidence-based clinic that incorporated a telephone engagement intervention (Phase I), participants were provided free cellular telephones with limited minutes and permitted to order free meals delivered by the therapist during upcoming sessions (Phase II). The third phase was similar to Phase II, but participants were provided unlimited minutes. Results indicated that participants’ attendance was significantly improved when meals and cellular telephone minutes were contingent on attendance. Although the percentage of sessions attended by participants during Phase III was higher than Phase II, unlimited minutes and meals did not significantly enhance attendance relative to limited minutes and meals. Session attendance for significant others of these participants was significantly higher during Phase III as compared with Phase I. Session attendance of significant others was statistically similar between Phase I and II and between Phase II and Phase III. Study implications and recommendations for future research and practice are discussed in light of the findings. © 2016 Taylor & Francis.


Child welfare; enlistment; Family Behavior Therapy; substance abuse; telephone engagement; treatment attendance

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