Improving Linkage with Substance Abuse Treatment using Brief Case Management and Motivational Interviewing

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Poor linkage with substance abuse treatment remains a problem, negating the benefits that can accrue to both substance abusers and the larger society. Numerous behavioral interventions have been tested to determine their potential role in improving linkage.


A randomized clinical trial of 678 substance abusers compared the linkage effect of two brief interventions with the referral standard of care (SOC) at a centralized intake unit (CIU). Interventions included five sessions of strengths-based case management (SBCM) or one session of motivational interviewing (MI). A priori hypotheses predicted that both interventions would be better than the standard of care in predicting linkage and that SBCM would be more effective than MI. We analyzed the effect of the two interventions on overall treatment linkage rates and by treatment modality. Logistic regression analysis examined predictors of treatment linkage for the sample and each group.


Two hypotheses were confirmed in that SBCM (n = 222) was effective in improving linkage compared to the SOC (n = 230), 55.0% vs. 38.7% (p < .01). SBCM improved linkage more than MI (55.0% vs. 44.7%,p < .05). Motivational interviewing (n = 226) was not significantly more effective in improving linkage than the standard of care (44.7% vs. 38.7%; p > .05). The three trial groups differed only slightly on the client characteristics that predicted linkage with treatment.


The results of this study confirm a body of literature that supports the effectiveness of case management in improving linkage with treatment. The role of motivational interviewing in improving linkage was not supported. Results are discussed in the context of other case management and motivational interviewing linkage studies.