Restructuring Personal Networks with a Motivational Interviewing Social Network Intervention to Assist the Transition Out of Homelessness

A Randomized Control Pilot Study

Published in: PLoS ONE, Volume 17, Issue 1, e0262210 (2022). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0262210

Posted on RAND.org on September 08, 2022

by David P. Kennedy, Karen Chan Osilla, Sarah B. Hunter, Daniela Golinelli, Ervant J. Maksabedian Hernandez, Joan S. Tucker

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Background

Social relationships play a key role in both substance use and homelessness. Transitioning out of homelessness often requires reduction in substance use as well as changes in social networks. A social network-based behavior change intervention that targets changes personal social networks may assist the transition out of homelessness. Most behavior change interventions that incorporate social networks assume a static network. However, people experiencing homelessness who transition into housing programs that use a harm reduction approach experience many changes in their social networks during this transition. Changes may include disconnecting from street-based network contacts, re-connecting with former network contacts, and exposure to new network members who actively engage in substance use. An intervention that helps people transitioning out of homelessness make positive alterations to their social networks may compliment traditional harm reduction housing program services.

Methods

We conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) of an innovative Social Network Intervention (MI-SNI), which combines network visualization and Motivational Interviewing to assist adults transitioning out of homelessness. The MI-SNI provides feedback to new residents about their social environments and is designed to motivate residents to make positive changes in both their individual behavior and their personal network. In a sample of 41 adult housing program residents with past year risky substance use, we examined whether participants randomized to receive a MI-SNI showed greater changes in their personal networks over 3 months compared to those receiving usual care.

Results

There were significant differences in the networks of the MI-SNI group compared to the group receiving usual care at follow-up, controlling for baseline network characteristics. The MI-SNI group had greater reductions in the proportion of their network members who influenced alcohol or other drug use (AOD) use, such as drinking partners, and more frequently changed their relationships in the direction of lower AOD risk with network members who were retained in their networks across waves.

Conclusions

This study is the first pilot test of a MI-SNI customized for assisting the transition out of homelessness to test for personal network changes. Results indicate that MI-SNIs can have a positive impact on short-term network changes and thus may serve as a useful adjunct to behavioral change interventions. These findings suggest that a MI-SNI approach may help individuals experiencing homelessness and risky AOD use positively restructure their social networks while transitioning into supportive housing. These promising results suggest the need for a larger RCT test of this innovative intervention approach.

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