HumanInsight Exploring Whether Addictions Counselors Recommend That Their Patients Use Websites, Smartphone Apps, or Other Digital Health Tools to Help Them in Their Recovery: Web-Based Survey
JMIR Form Res. 2022 Jun 20;6(6):e37008. doi: 10.2196/37008.
BACKGROUND: Hundreds of smartphone apps or websites claiming to help those with addictions are available, but few have been tested for efficacy in changing clinically relevant addictions outcomes. Although most of these products are designed for self-facilitation by users struggling with addictions, counselors and other addictions treatment providers will likely play a critical role in facilitating adoption by integrating their use into counseling or recommending them to their patients. Yet, few studies have explored the practices of addictions counselors in using or recommending addictions-focused digital health tools in their work.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to understand whether addiction counselors are recommending that their patients use addictions-focused apps to help them in their recovery, and the factors that affect their desire to do so.
METHODS: Licensed addiction counselors practicing in the United States (N=112) were recruited from professional and scientific organizations of alcohol or drug counselors to complete a web-based survey.
RESULTS: In total, 74% (83/112) of counselors had recommended that their patients use a website or smartphone app to assist them in recovery, and those that had done so reported recommending an app with an average of 54% of their patients. The most commonly recommended app or website was SMARTRecovery.org (9%), I am Sober (8%), In the Rooms (7%), Insight Timer (4%), Calm (4%), Sober Tool (4%), Recovery Box (3%), and Sober Grid (3%). The most important reason that counselors recommended the websites or apps was that colleagues or patients told them they found it helpful (55%), followed by their workplaces recommending it (20%) and professional organizations recommending it (10%). Counselors' intentions to recommend a hypothetical app were strongest for apps that had been tested in rigorous, scientific studies that showed they helped users stay sober or reduce their substance use; 94% (105/112) reported that they would "definitely" or "probably" use such an app.
CONCLUSIONS: Most addictions counselors surveyed are already recommending that their patients use apps or websites to help them in their recovery, despite the paucity of available products that have evidence supporting their efficacy for addictions outcomes. One way that product developers could increase adoption among addictions treatment providers is to make efficacy testing a priority and to disseminate results through professional organizations and clinics.
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