Qualitatively and quantitatively evaluating harm-reduction goal setting among chronically homeless individuals with alcohol dependence

Most treatment programs for alcohol dependence have prioritized alcohol abstinence as the primary treatment goal. However, abstinence-based goals are not always considered desirable or attainable by more severely affected populations, such as chronically homeless people with alcohol dependence. Because these individuals comprise a multimorbid and high-utilizing population, they are in need of more focused research attention that elucidates their preferred treatment goals. The aim of this secondary study was therefore to qualitatively and quantitatively document participant-generated treatment goals.

Participants were currently or formerly chronically homeless individuals (N = 31) with alcohol dependence who participated in a pilot of extended-release naltrexone and harm-reduction counseling. Throughout the treatment period, study interventionists elicited participants' goals and recorded them on an open-ended grid. In subsequent weeks, progress towards and achievement of goals was obtained via self-report and recorded by study interventionists. Conventional content analysis was performed to classify participant-generated treatment goals.

Representation of the three top categories remained stable over the course of treatment. In the order of their frequency, they included drinking-related goals, quality-of-life goals and health-related goals. Within the category of drinking-related goals, participants consistently endorsed reducing drinking and alcohol-related consequences ahead of abstinence-based goals. Quantitative analyses indicated participants generated an increasing number of goals over the course of treatment. Proportions of goals achieved and progressed towards kept pace with this increase.

Findings confirmed hypotheses that chronically homeless people with alcohol dependence can independently generate and achieve treatment goals towards alcohol harm reduction and quality-of-life improvement.

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Addictive Behaviors