Help-seeking timeline followback for problem drinkers: preliminary comparison with agency records of treatment contacts

J Stud Alcohol. 2001 Mar;62(2):262-7. doi: 10.15288/jsa.2001.62.262.


Objective: A pilot study assessed the utility of the Timeline Followback (TLFB) method to collect information on help seeking.

Method: Using the TLFB method, 34 clients (26 men) who had attended at least one session of an outpatient alcohol treatment program reported on treatment contacts, including any supplemental services (e.g., psychiatric care). TLFB reports of help seeking at that agency were compared with agency records of treatment contacts.

Results: Clients reported on their help-seeking behavior for a period of approximately 8 months after they had completed an initial assessment for the outpatient treatment. With regard to the number of outpatient sessions they attended, intraclass correlations and equivalence testing showed that the TLFB data were comparable to the agency records of treatment contacts. Analysis of week-to-week correspondence of the presence or absence of help-seeking episodes showed good agreement between TLFB and the agency records for most participants, although there was substantial variation. Degree of correspondence was not associated with the length of the recall period or individual differences (e.g., drinking pattern). Older participants, however, tended to have lower week-to-week concordance than did younger participants.

Conclusions: These data provide preliminary support for the utility of a help-seeking TLFB instrument to assess addiction- and mental health-related contacts. This instrument may be especially useful in research in which collecting temporal patterns of help seeking is of interest (e.g., in studies examining factors influencing the delay in help seeking after relapse).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic* / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / statistics & numerical data*