Society for the Study of Addiction Symposium Event Summary

What makes a successful behaviour change intervention within addiction?

Back in August 2016, we submitted an abstract to the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) to display a poster at their annual symposium, demonstrating how our digital technologies had been applied to relapse prevention for those dependant on alcohol – namely the Evie and Shine projects.

We were extremely pleased to learn that our abstract had been picked for presentation at the symposium, which took place on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th November 2016.

Upon arrival at the event, it became apparent that the speaker and delegate list was very interesting; the main attendees being psychologists, researchers and doctors, all interested in addiction and behaviour change.

As expected, there were many differing standpoints floating around the conference during the two days, from the disease model of addiction through to a more psychological view of addiction; arguments which all have their pros and cons! However, what remained constant was the main principle behind behaviour change; an individual must be motivated to change in order to apply behaviour change principles with any success.

One of the most interesting things I heard at the conference was a passing statement from one of the keynote speakers, Professor Robert West. He spoke about the psychology of addiction involving core motivational constructs such as; intention, evaluation, need, want, impulse, inhibition and self-regulation. However, the meaning of these core constructs can vary dramatically depending on who you are speaking with. He argued that getting a room full of psychologists to discuss the meaning of even one construct would conclude with those psychologists ‘agreeing to disagree’!

With this is mind, it is important to remember that it doesn’t really matter what label is attached to how someone changes a behaviour, what is important is their own motivation to change and how they can do it themselves.

Within another delegate session, Professor Susan Michie discussed the content of behaviour change techniques. Interestingly, the two things she concluded needed to be present with any intervention for the technique to have any level of success, particularly within alcohol brief interventions, are motivation and self-regulation (the ability to self-monitor).

Needless to say this was music to my ears with regards to the digital technology we developed for the Shine and Evie projects; the basis of the intervention involved personal, motivational messages and interaction as well as daily monitoring of oneself.

For a copy of the poster that was approved for this event, please click here. For more information about this or any of our digital behaviour change work please email me, or ring 0161 209 3383.