AIMS: This study examined client motivation as a predictor of retention and therapeutic engagement across the major types of treatment settings represented in the third national drug abuse treatment outcome study (DATOS) conducted in the United States. DESIGN: Sequential admissions during 1991-93 to 37 programs provided representative samples of community-based treatment populations. Based on this naturalistic non-experimental evaluation design, hierarchical linear model (HLM) analysis for nested data was used to control for systematic variations in retention rates and client attributes among programs within modalities. SETTING: The data were collected from long-term residential (LTR), outpatient methadone (OMT) and outpatient drug-free (ODF) programs located in 11 large cities. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 2265 clients in 18 LTR, 981 clients in 13 OMT and 1791 clients in 16 ODF programs were studied. MEASUREMENTS: Pre-treatment variables included problem recognition and treatment readiness (two stages of motivation), socio-demographic indicators, drug use history and dependence, criminality, co-morbid psychiatric diagnosis and previous treatment. Retention and engagement (based on ratings of client and counselor relationships) served as outcome criteria. FINDINGS: Pre-treatment motivation was related to retention in all three modalities, and the treatment readiness scale was the strongest predictor in LTR and OMT. Higher treatment readiness also was significantly related to early therapeutic engagement in each modality. CONCLUSIONS: Indicators of intrinsic motivation--especially readiness for treatment--were not only significant predictors of engagement and retention, but were more important than socio-demographic, drug use and other background variables. Improved assessments and planning of interventions that focus on stages of readiness for change and recovery should help improve treatment systems.
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