Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles are seeking parents of teens who are currently enrolled in outpatient substance abuse treatment for a new study that will evaluate how helpful a peer-led, private Facebook group can be in providing information and support to parents.
Study participants will screen in during a five-minute phone-call and those who wish to participate will be given an hour-long assessment. Then, participants will be randomly assigned either to be a member of the Facebook group, or to carry on as they normally do. After eight weeks the parents will participate in an exit interview where researchers will ask about their involvement in their child’s recovery process, their own stress and coping mechanisms, and their child’s outcomes. Participants will be paid $50 after the first interview, and $60 after the second.
“The goal is to provide information about adolescent treatment and recovery, skills that improve parent-child communication and stress management, as well as give parents a sense of emotional support and hope,” says Marya Schulte, PhD, a research psychologist at UCLA who is leading the study. The Facebook group is known as PURPOSE (Parents United with Responsive Parents for Online Support and Education).
Schulte, who has a background working in substance abuse research, designed the PURPOSE group to provide support and education for parents, who may find it difficult to attend traditional in-person support groups.
“I wanted to create an easily accessible, peer-led support group for parents that didn’t require them driving somewhere—something literally in the palm of their hands. When I have talked to parents and providers over the years, they often commented on the logistical barriers for coming to sessions or getting to support groups,” she says. “I wanted to provide a safe space that did a similar thing to in-person support groups but in a medium that people are already using: Facebook.”
The study is open to parents of teens ages 13 to 18 who are engaged with some sort of outpatient treatment. Participants can be located anywhere in the country and just need a valid Facebook account (they are welcome to use a pseudonym if desired). The group is private and closed, so other people on Facebook will not be able to see that participants are members of the group.
Schulte designed the weekly topics after speaking to parents, providers and teens about what skills and information they would like to learn more about in order to better cope with the effects of substance use disorder on the whole family. Group members are also welcome to ask any questions that they may have about substance use, addiction and treatment, and recovery. However, there are no requirements for level of engagement in the PURPOSE group; whether or not they post, comment, etc. is completely up to them.
“This is a place that parents can feel supported and where they can go to find trusted information,” Schulte says. “We’re encouraging them to be a part of their child’s recovery process and giving them a platform to seek advice from peers about how to handle difficult situations that arise.”