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Program Profile: Free Talk

Evidence Rating: No Effects - One study No Effects - One study

Date: This profile was posted on May 21, 2018

Program Summary

This is a group, motivational interviewing program for adolescents with a first-time alcohol or drug offense. The goal of the program is to prevent negative consequences of alcohol and other drug use. This program is rated No Effects. There were no statistically significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups on past month frequency of alcohol, heavy drinking, or marijuana use; alcohol or marijuana consequences; recidivism; delinquency; and alcohol and other drug use.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Free Talk program is a group, motivational interviewing intervention designed to prevent negative consequences as a result of regular alcohol and other drug use during adolescence, such as having unprotected sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, poorer physical and mental health, impaired cognitive development, and delinquent behavior. 
 
Target Population
The program targets adolescents aged 14–18 who are referred to the Santa Barbara [California] Teen Court diversion program for a first-time alcohol or marijuana offense. The Santa Barbara Teen Court program is for youths with a first-time alcohol or drug offense who are not in need of more intensive intervention, as determined by the probation department. Eligible youths participate in the program instead of formal processing in the juvenile justice system. The Free Talk program is provided to youths participating in the Santa Barbara Teen Court.
  
Program Activities
This program uses a motivational interviewing approach in six, 55-minute group sessions. Motivational interviewing strategies include discussion of the pros and cons of continued alcohol and other drug use versus cutting back or quitting, determination of the adolescents’ readiness for change in their alcohol and other drug use, and provision of support for their alcohol and other drug use. Different content is reviewed in each session. Examples of topics reviewed include
  • Myths around alcohol and other drug use
  • Teens’ concerns about how their personal beliefs may affect their subsequent use
  • Teens’ thoughts about the path from no use to experimental use to addiction
  • How alcohol and other drug use might contribute to other risk-taking behavior
  • Effective communication
  • Effects of alcohol and other drug use on the brain
  • Brief feedback (e.g., amount of alcohol and other drug use by the teen compared with others their age)
Key Personnel
Doctoral graduate students in psychology, who have experience working with at-risk adolescents, facilitate the sessions.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
The evaluation of the effectiveness of the Free Talk program by D’Amico and colleagues (2013) found no statistically significant differences between the intervention and comparison groups on all outcome measures. This indicates that the program did not have an impact on adolescents who committed first-time alcohol and other drug offenses. 
 
Recidivism
One year after the first offense, there was no statistically significant between-group difference in recidivism. 
 
Delinquency
At 3-month follow up, there was no statistically significant between-group difference in self-reported delinquency.
 
Past Month Frequency of Alcohol Use
At 3-month follow up, there was no statistically significant between-group difference in the frequency of alcohol use in the past month. 
 
Heavy Drinking in the Past Month
At 3-month follow up, there was no statistically significant between-group difference in the frequency of heavy drinking in the past month.
 
Alcohol Consequences
At 3-month follow up, there were no statistically significant between-group differences in alcohol consequences. 
 
Past Month Frequency of Marijuana Use
At 3-month follow up, there was no statistically significant between-group difference in the frequency of marijuana use in the past month.
 
Marijuana Consequences
At 3-month follow up, there were no statistically significant between-group differences in marijuana consequences. 
 
Alcohol or Drug Use Before Sex
At 3-month follow up, among teens who reported having sex, there was no statistically significant between-group difference in alcohol or drug use before sex.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
D’Amico and colleagues (2013) conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine the impact of the Free Talk program on recidivism, delinquency, alcohol and other drug use and consequences, and alcohol and other drug use before sex, 3 months after completion of the program. Participants included 187 adolescents aged 14–18 who had been referred to the Santa Barbara [California] Teen Court diversion program for a first-time alcohol or marijuana offense. Eligible youths who are not in need of more intensive intervention, as determined by the probation department, can participate in this program instead of going through formal processing in the juvenile justice system. Each group of five teens was randomized using a 3:2 ratio, with three teens assigned to the Free Talk group and two teens to the control group. Using the 3:2 ratio ensured a sufficient number of participants in the Free Talk group to allow the group to run successfully.
 
Teens in the intervention group (n=109) were assigned to the six-session Free Talk motivational interviewing group. Teens in the comparison group (n=78) received usual care, which consisted of six group sessions that followed an abstinence-based Alcoholics Anonymous approach, and included discussion of personal triggers, consequences of alcohol and other drug use, educational videos, discussion of personal experiences with alcohol and other drug use, and myths about alcohol and other drug use. Attendees of these sessions also included teens who were not eligible for the study because they did not meet study criteria (e.g., they were younger than 14, had a medical marijuana prescription card, or had a different offense); however, all youths in the usual care group, whether in the study or not, reported alcohol and other drug problems.
 
Participants were mostly male (67 percent) with a mean age of 16.6 years (range 14–18). Race/ethnicity was evenly split between those reporting Hispanic race/ethnicity (45 percent) and those reporting white (non-Hispanic) race/ethnicity (45 percent). An additional 10 percent reported being of mixed or other race/ethnicity. There were no statistically significant between-group differences on these demographic variables. More teens in the intervention group reported lifetime alcohol use, alcohol consequences, and being drunk, compared with teens in the comparison group. These differences were controlled for in the outcome analyses.
 
Youths were assessed at baseline and 3 months after program completion. The primary outcomes of interest were past month frequency of alcohol and marijuana use, heavy drinking in the past month, and alcohol and marijuana consequences. Past month frequency of alcohol and marijuana use were assessed using measures from the RAND Adolescent/Young Adult Panel Study, based on established items and scales from Monitoring the Future and DSM-IV criteria. Participants were asked, “During the past month, how many times [or days] have you tried alcohol [marijuana]?” Heavy drinking was assessed by a question about how frequently in the past month they had drunk “five or more drinks of alcohol in a row, that is, within a couple of hours.” Items based on DSM-IV criteria addressed whether adolescents had experienced consequences due to alcohol (six items, which included missed school or work, or passed out) or marijuana use (five items such as  got into trouble at school or home, had difficulty concentrating). Additional outcomes included recidivism, delinquency, and alcohol and other drug use before sex. Recidivism data were obtained from the Santa Barbara County Probation Department and included the total number of youths who recidivated 1 year after their first offense, by study condition. Delinquency was assessed by a 10-item scale that asked teens how often they participated in undesirable behaviors (e.g., cheated on a test at school, were drunk or high in a public place) in the past year or since the last survey. Finally, teens were asked one item obtained from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) regarding whether they had used alcohol and other drug before sex. Responses were: “I have never had sexual intercourse,” “yes,” or “no”.
 
For alcohol and other drug use and consequences, delinquency, and alcohol and other drug use before sex, between-group comparisons were conducted, to control for baseline covariates and baseline measure of the variable of interest. Recidivism data were analyzed using a chi-square test to determine whether the percentages who recidivated were different between groups. Recidivism rates were examined for a subgroup of youths in each condition who completed all six group sessions.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Free Talk facilitators receive 40 hours of Motivational Interviewing  training, including a 1-day workshop on motivational interviewing by trained by clinical psychologists affiliated with the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). The Motivational Integrity Treatment Integrity (MITI) Scale (Moyers et al. 2010) can be used to assess fidelity to motivational interviewing (D’Amico et al. 2013).
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Other Information

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Recidivism was examined for a subgroup of youths from both study groups who completed all six sessions of their respective programs. There were no statistically significant differences between adolescents in the Free Talk intervention group and adolescents in the comparison group (D’Amico et al. 2013).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
D'Amico, Elizabeth J., Sarah B. Hunter, Jeremy N.V. Miles, Brett A. Ewing, and Karen Chan Osilla. 2013. “A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Group Motivational Interviewing Intervention for Adolescents with a First Time Alcohol or Drug Offense.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 45(5):400–08.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826597/
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

D'Amico, Elizabeth J., Karen Chan Osilla, and Sarah B. Hunter. 2010. “Developing a Group Motivational Interviewing Intervention for First-Time Adolescent Offenders At-Risk for an Alcohol or Drug Use Disorder.” Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 28(4):417–36.


D'Amico, Elizabeth J., Jon M. Houck, Sarah B. Hunter, Jeremy N.V. Miles, Karen Chan Osilla, and Brett A. Ewing. 2015. “Group Motivational Interviewing for Adolescents: Change Talk and Alcohol and Marijuana Outcomes.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 83(1):68–80.


Group MI for Teens. “Free Talk.” Accessed April 9, 2018.

https://groupmiforteens.org/programs/freetalk

Moyers, T. B., T. Martin, J. K. Manuel, W. R. Miller, and D. Ernst. 2010. Revised Global Scales: Motivational Interviewing Treatment Integrity 3.1. 1 (MITI 3.1. 1). Unpublished manuscript. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico.


Osilla, Karen Chan, J. Alexis Ortiz, Jeremy N.V. Miles, Eric R. Pedersen, Jon M. Houck, and Elizabeth J. D’Amico. 2015. “How Group Factors Affect Adolescent Change Talk and Substance Use Outcomes: Implications for Motivational Interviewing Training.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 62(1):79–86.

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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse
A client-centered, semidirective psychological treatment approach that concentrates on improving and strengthening individuals’ motivations to change. The practice is rated Effective. Individuals in the treatment groups significantly reduced their use of substances compared to those in the no-treatment control groups.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances



Juvenile Diversion Programs
An intervention strategy that redirects youths away from formal processing in the juvenile justice system, while still holding them accountable for their actions. The practice is rated Promising for reducing recidivism rates of juveniles who participated in diversion programming compared with juveniles who were formally processed in the justice system.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 14 - 18

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Suburban

Setting (Delivery): Courts

Program Type: Alcohol and Drug Therapy/Treatment, Diversion, Group Therapy, Teen/Youth Court, Motivational Interviewing, Alcohol and Drug Prevention

Targeted Population: First Time Offenders, Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Offenders

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide