Feasibility and Acceptability of Incorporating Social Network Visualizations Into a Culturally Centered Motivational Network Intervention to Prevent Substance Use Among Urban Native American Emerging Adults

A Qualitative Study

Published in: Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, Volume 17, Article Number 53 (2022). doi: 10.1186/s13722-022-00334-1

Posted on RAND.org on November 22, 2022

by David P. Kennedy, Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Ryan Andrew Brown, Alina I. Palimaru, Daniel Dickerson, Carrie L. Johnson, Anthony Lopez

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Coupling social network visualizations with Motivational Interviewing in substance use interventions has been shown to be acceptable and feasible in several pilot tests, and has been associated with changes in participants' substance use and social networks. The objective of this study was to assess acceptability and feasibility of an adaptation of this behavior change approach into a culturally centered behavior change intervention for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) emerging adults living in urban areas. AI/AN populations experience high rates of health disparities and substance use. Although 70% of AI/AN people live outside of tribal lands, there are few culturally tailored health interventions for these AI/AN populations. Social networks can both increase and discourage substance use. Leveraging healthy social networks and increasing protective factors among urban AI/AN emerging adults may help increase resilience.


We conducted thirteen focus groups with 91 male and female participants (32 urban AI/AN emerging adults ages 18–25, 26 parents, and 33 providers) and one pilot test of the three workshop sessions with 15 AI/AN emerging adults. Focus group participants provided feedback on a proposed workshop-based intervention curriculum that combined group Motivational Interviewing (MI) and social network visualizations. Pilot workshop participants viewed their own social networks during group MI sessions focused on substance use and traditional practices and discussed their reactions to viewing and discussing their networks during these sessions. We used a combination of open coding of focus group and workshop session transcripts to identify themes across the group sessions and content analysis of comments entered into an online social network interview platform to assess the extent that participants had an intuitive understanding of the information conveyed through network diagrams.


Focus group and pilot test participants reacted positively to the intervention content and approach and provided constructive feedback on components that should be changed. Themes that emerged included feasibility, acceptability, relevance, understandability, and usefulness of viewing personal network visualizations and discussing social networks during group MI workshops. Workshop participants demonstrated an intuitive understanding of network concepts (network composition and structure) when viewing their diagrams for the first time.


Social network visualizations are a promising tool for increasing awareness of social challenges and sources of resilience for urban AI/AN emerging adults. Coupled with Motivational Interviewing in a group context, social network visualizations may enhance discussions of network influences on substance use and engagement in traditional practices.

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