In Brief

Psychologists have a great opportunity to tap into two federal programs that are improving the way substance abuse treatment is delivered in this country, said speakers from the Center on Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse at APA's 2001 Annual Convention.

The government representatives described their efforts immediately following the formal launching of PracticeNet, a research tool developed by APA's Practice Directorate that promises to yield helpful information for the field. CSAT underwrote the initial development of PracticeNet in part to gain a better understanding of how psychologists treat people with substance abuse disorders.

CSAT Director H. Westley Clark, MD, JD, MPH, described one of two federal programs, CSAT's Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs), operating since 1993. The ATTCs are a national, multidisciplinary network that helps practitioners learn and adopt innovative and effective treatment strategies. Thirteen regional centers and a national office work together to develop a range of innovative products and programs, including a "train-the-trainer" manual for co-occuring substance abuse and mental health problems; a workshop on treating methamphetamine addiction; and 26 online courses, ranging from advanced pharmacology to motivational interviewing, Clark said.

The centers also set educational standards, facilitate cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs, and recruit new professionals into the substance abuse field, Clark added.

The program's rationale is to make sure practitioners keep abreast of important new findings in a rapidly changing field, he said. "If there's no mechanism for updating practitioner training, you're basically practicing in the same way you did when you got your degree, and that's not a good idea," Clark said. "It doesn't matter how good your research is--if you can't change the practice, you haven't achieved your goal."

The second federal effort is NIDA's Clinical Trials Network (CTN), a comprehensive national research program that's also aimed at making substance abuse research more relevant for practitioners. The CTN has two goals, said CTN Director Betty Tai, PhD, to conduct community-based clinical studies of promising therapies for drug addiction; and to ensure the timely transfer of research results to health-care providers, including psychologists.

The network is working toward these goals via 14 regional sites across the country, each of which combines the forces of a university-based research and training center and affiliated local community treatment programs, Tai said. Most of these are on the East and West coasts, but the CTN plans to expand to other areas of the country too, she said. The program, the largest of its kind ever run by NIDA, is unique and challenging because of its aim of conducting research in real-world settings, Tai said. Some of the challenges include melding the different agendas of researchers and practitioners, getting community players to work together, and adequately addressing the needs of diverse clients.

So far, the efforts have pushed all involved to stretch their usual range of expertise, she said.

Psychologists can find out more about these two strong programs by logging onto www.nattc.org for the ATTC program, and www.drugabuse.gov/CTN/index.htm for the CTN program.

--T. DeANGELIS