A clinical tool for rating response to civil commitment for substance abuse treatment

Psychiatr Serv. 1997 Oct;48(10):1317-22. doi: 10.1176/ps.48.10.1317.


Objective: The objectives of this study were to develop a measure to assess patients' response to civil commitment, to test this measure on two groups of dually diagnosed patients (medically ill alcoholics and patients with dual mental and substance use disorders), and to identify patient characteristics associated with a positive response to commitment.

Methods: The outcome of 38 male veterans civilly committed to inpatient substance abuse treatment for an average of six months was rated by their treating clinicians. Raters used the Commitment Response Form (CRF), a scale anchored to behavioral descriptions that was developed for the study and that measures outcome in five areas: patients' attitude toward recovery, substance use, medical condition, engagement in substance abuse treatment, and independence of functioning. Each patient's medical records were reviewed by two clinical staff members who made independent retrospective ratings and a joint rating using the CRF. They also made independent and joint dichotomous ratings of whether the patient was a positive responder or a nonresponder to civil commitment.

Results: The CRF showed superior reliability when compared with the dichotomous rating of outcome. The scale demonstrated reasonable psychometric properties. Mean scale scores did not differ significantly by patient group; slightly more than half were rated as having a good to excellent overall response. Better outcome was associated with longer periods of previous abstinence from alcohol and a higher level of education.

Conclusions: Use of a scale anchored to behavioral descriptions improved reliability of outcome determinations by clinical staff. Civil commitment resulted in good to excellent outcome in many but not all committed patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation*
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry)
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Veterans / psychology*