The Manipulation Of Social Networks: The Drug Abuser In Residential Treatment

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology


Social Network theory offers an excellent perspective for understanding recovery from substance abuse. The therapeutic community (TC) provides a setting that is particularly well suited for investigating this phenomenon.The present cross-sectional research examined the relationship between social network characteristics and treatment status in two modalities: residential and outpatient drug-free. Homogeneous samples of new and senior clients in good standing were selected in a systematic, nonprobability fashion, using a census of eligible respondents in each cohort. Interviews were conducted according to structured formats eliciting multiple indicators of network properties and membership characteristics along with data on attitudes and community performance.Univariate tests established group differences in network characteristics. Data reduction by factor analysis yielded five diverse network dimensions that explained 100% of the common variance. Multiple analyses produced consistent results. Both residential treatment groups (Re-entry and aftercare) had an abundance of close-knit ties and support providers, a peer group that promoted abstinence and a positive attitude toward help-seeking. In comparison, Residential Admissions were significantly more likely to rely on kin, had a more stable though dysfunctional network membership, lacked depth in both quality and quantity of ties, felt less satisfied with friendships and had lower expectations of support. Outpatient Treatment clients, in comparison with Aftercare subjects, were more likely to have network members with whom they had past drug involvement, were more dependent on relations of obligation, had more durable associations and had less substitutability in source of support. The networks of the residential treatment cohorts were very much alike and dominated by program peers and staff of recent origin. Their networks appeared to have undergone the most radical change since admission.Regression analyses portrayed residential treatment as playing a primary role in enhancing network strength and achieving a break from past associations. A positive network orientation seems to be a byproduct of treatment, regardless of type. Dependence on kin appears connected to past dysfunctionality and lack of involvement in conventional activities. These findings are discussed in light of social network theory and measurement, network reconstruction as an empirically supportable rehabilitation strategy for substance abusers and implication for intervention and research, with broader considerations concerning TCs.


Psychology, Clinical

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