In 2005, Gallione, Hawke and Hennen conducted research demonstrating the principles of Social Learning Theory. They evaluated the treatment modalities in five different residential facilities situated in New Jersey. They noted some significant flaws in their research. Their subjects constituted a referred population, and they were not randomly assigned. So they did not reflect a cross-section of society, and the programs are not completely comparable (Gallione et. al., 2005). Nevertheless they had 185 adolescents and were able to draw preliminary conclusions. The authors noted that adolescents are particularly challenging in therapy for drug abuse. It is a struggle to get them invested in the treatment, and they are likely to leave treatment without completing it. These researchers found that using some Social Learning Theory -based concepts, although not identified as such, improved success rates (Gallione et. al., 2005).
Using short survey instruments, the researchers evaluated the treatment of each individual and looked for "therapeutic involvement," where the client gets actively engaged in the therapy and accepts their own role both in keeping an old, troublesome behavior pattern going as well as their role in changing their own behavior (Gallione et. al., 2005). In this way, the approach involves a person's cognitive strengths in the process of behavioral change. The study used multivariate analyses to consider the effects of gender, spirituality, family relationships, social skills, self-esteem, and severity of the individual's problem, all concepts that would be applied to a behavioral approach to render it more in line with Social Learning Theory. The authors reported "relatively strong correlations (Gallione et. al., 2005). Considering the complexity of their study and the difficulty identifying all the variables, the study was a good try at looking at the many social and psychological factors that can affect substance abuse (Gallione et. al., 2005).
While the researchers felt that the necessity to pick five different programs, without randomization of subjects or ability to select them based on established criteria, for the purposes of exploring Social Learning Theory the study may serve well. In the real world, providing real therapy to real adolescents (or any other group) dealing with the problems of drug abuse, the therapist does not get to pick and choose which client he or she will have because of the need to have a controlled result. Drug treatment clients vary widely (Trad, 1994). Each individual will have his or her own particular needs exactly because becoming addicted to drugs is more than mere operant conditioning. While using a drug and liking the effect is certainly a part of it, that person exists in a larger social setting. Very often that social setting contributed to the development of the drug problem, and the patient must find a solution that recognizes the whole person that he or she is (Trad, 1994).
The authors noted that even looking at groups rather than individual, patterns emerged (Gallione et. al., 2005). This also demonstrates the theories of Social Learning Theory, because it argues that people tend to gravitate toward people more like them than different from them. So the author looked at group affects based on family abuse, ethnic background and other commonalities. In particular, a history of family abuse is somewhat common among people with drug problems, particularly females (Gallione et. al., 2005), so a treatment model capable of addressing such unpleasant social facts should be an asset to the treatment model.
The study discussed here also demonstrated the complex nature of environmental influences. One social variable by itself might tend to improve client response to therapy while if a second one was present, that second one could mitigate the first one's positive effect. The authors found that both gender and ethnic background significantly affected the level of therapeutic involvement of the client (Gallione et. al., 2005).
Interestingly, the authors looked for a "working alliance" between the therapist and client, which emphasized the social aspects of the treatment even more. In addition, the effects of previous experiences affected who formed the strongest levels of therapeutic involvement, and the results might challenge assumptions. Males tended to form stronger therapeutic involvement than females. The researchers postulated that this might have been because more of the females had been victims of abuse, something that was likely to Social Learning Theory can bring to therapy very clearly.
Carroll, Kathleen M.; Keller, Daniels S.; and Rounsaville, Bruce J. 1997. "Relapse Prevention Strategies for the Treatment of Cocaine Abuse." American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Vol. 17.
Gallione, Peter; Hawke, Josephine M.; and Hennen, Joseph. 2005. "Correlates of Therapeutic Involvement among Adolescents in Residential Drug Treatment." American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Vol. 31.
Kandel, Denise B. Stages and Pathways of Drug Involvement: Examining the Gateway Hypothesis. Cambridge University Press: 2002.
SAMHSA. 2003. "Overview of Findings from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health." Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed via the Internet…