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An evaluation of a group-based motivational intervention for substance misusers in an Irish forensic setting

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2015

S. Harper*
Psychology Service, Irish Prison Service, Mountjoy Prison, North Circular Road, Dublin, Ireland
A. O’Rourke
Psychology Service, Irish Prison Service, Mountjoy Prison, North Circular Road, Dublin, Ireland
*Address for correspondence: S. Harper, Irish Prison Service, Mountjoy Prison, North Circular Road, Dublin 7, Ireland. (Email:



The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate a 12-session group-based motivational intervention for substance misusers in a prison setting. The intervention aimed to increase both participants awareness of problem substance use and motivation to change their substance use behaviour.


Participants were recruited for the intervention through active outreach in the prison. Participants of the intervention group completed a structured interview before the group commencing and standardised pre- and post-outcome measures. The results of the intervention group (n=31) were compared with a waiting list control group (n=11).


Non-parametric analysis showed retention rates on this programme at 2, 4 and 6 weeks were 88%, 79% and 76%, respectively. Outcome data were consistent with the predicted direction for the treatment group compared with the wait-list control with significant between-group differences found on ambivalence and taking steps scores.


This group-based intervention demonstrated positive levels of client engagement and retention. The intervention was also successful in reducing participant ambivalence about their drug use. Implications for service provision are discussed and design limitations of the present study are considered. Overall, findings indicate the potential utility of a group-based motivational intervention for substance misusers in forensic settings.

Original Research
© College of Psychiatrists of Ireland 2015 

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