Feasibility of a Computer-Assisted Social Network Motivational Interviewing Intervention for Substance Use and HIV Risk Behaviors for Housing First Residents

Published in: Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, v. 11, no. 14, Sep. 2016, p. 1-11

Posted on RAND.org on September 19, 2016

by Karen Chan Osilla, David P. Kennedy, Sarah B. Hunter, Ervant J. Maksabedian Hernandez

Read More

Access further information on this document at Addiction Science & Clinical Practice

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Research Question

  1. What feedback do formerly homeless individuals have about a social network intervention that utilizes motivational interviewing?


Social networks play positive and negative roles in the lives of homeless people influencing their alcohol and/or other drug (AOD) and HIV risk behaviors.


We developed a four-session computer-assisted social network motivational interviewing intervention for homeless adults transitioning into housing. We examined the acceptability of the intervention among staff and residents at an organization that provides permanent supportive housing through iterative rounds of beta testing. Staff were 3 men and 3 women who were residential support staff (i.e., case managers and administrators). Residents were 8 men (7 African American, 1 Hispanic) and 3 women (2 African American, 1 Hispanic) who had histories of AOD and HIV risk behaviors. We conducted a focus group with staff who gave input on how to improve the delivery of the intervention to enhance understanding and receptivity among new residents. We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews and collected self-report satisfaction data from residents.


Three themes emerged over the course of the resident interviews. Residents reported that the intervention was helpful in discussing their social network, that seeing the visualizations was more impactful than just talking about their network, and that the intervention prompted thoughts about changing their AOD use and HIV risk networks.


This study is the first of its kind that has developed, with input from Housing First staff and residents, a motivational interviewing intervention that targets both the structure and composition of one's social network. These results suggest that providing visual network feedback with a guided motivational interviewing discussion is a promising approach to supporting network change.

Key Findings

  • Residents and staff of Housing First, a supportive housing organization for formerly homeless people, found the social network intervention in this study to be helpful in thinking about behavioral change.
  • Participants reported finding the visualizations of social networks more helpful than just talking about networks.
  • The intervention prompted thoughts of—and, in some cases, action on—changes to participants’ social networks.
  • Participants who engaged in more than one beta testing session reported taking action on behavioral change.


  • The network visualizations used in this intervention are an innovative way to help facilitate behavior change and may help other populations reduce substance use and HIV risk behaviors.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.