Objective: Adolescent substance use and abuse is a pressing public health problem and is strongly related to interpersonal aggression. Such problems disproportionately impact minority youth, who have limited access to evidence-based interventions such as ecological family therapies, brief motivational interventions (BMIs), and cognitive behavioral therapies (CBTs). With a predominantly minority sample, our objective was to rigorously evaluate the efficacy of a school-based BMI/CBT, Guided Self-Change (GSC), for addressing substance use and aggressive behavior.
Method: We conducted a school-based randomized, controlled trial with 514 high school students (mean age 16.24 years, 41% female, 80% minority) reporting using substances and perpetrating aggression. We used structural equation modeling to compare participants randomly assigned to receive GSC or standard care (SC; education/assessment/referral-only) at posttreatment and at 3 and 6 months posttreatment on alcohol use, drug use, and interpersonal aggression outcomes as assessed by the Timeline Follow-Back.
Results: Compared with SC participants, GSC participants showed significant reductions (p < .05) in total number of alcohol use days (Cohen's d = 0.45 at posttreatment and 0.20 at 3 months posttreatment), drug use days (Cohen's d = 0.22 at posttreatment and 0.20 at 3 months posttreatment), and aggressive behavior incidents (Cohen's d = 0.23 at posttreatment). Moreover, treatment effects did not vary by gender or ethnicity.
Conclusions: With minority youth experiencing mild to moderate problems with substance use and aggressive behavior, GSC holds promise as an early intervention approach that can be implemented with success in schools.