An interpretative phenomenological analysis of service users’ experiences in a psychosocial addictions intervention [2020]


The aim of this study was to explore the subjective experiences of participants who: (1) received a psychosocial intervention as part of an addiction recovery research trial, and (2) responded to treatment through drug reduction, with the intention of eliciting qualitative change processes of recovery.


Data were collected using semi‐structured interviews designed to capture detailed descriptions of participants’ experiences of recovery within the intervention.


Eleven participants who had achieved drug abstinence or significant drug reduction by successfully completing the psychosocial intervention took part in the study. The data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA).


Five superordinate themes were identified relating to (1) An active, individualised and skills‐based intervention that validates a new way of being; (2) Staff that foster good working relationships based on trust and safety within services that do not stigmatise; (3) To be understood individually, historically and psychologically, and with regard to the pernicious relationship with drugs; (4) Motivation is personal, intrinsic, requires vigilance and is driven forward by periods of success through abstinence; and (5) Interpersonal connectedness is essential to recovery; family is a key reason to abstain and friendships can either facilitate or hinder success.


These findings suggest that the success of the psychosocial intervention may be due to a combination of modality specific factors and also broader holistic aspects that were provided through intervention. Future research is required to generalise these findings to wider addiction populations.

Practitioner points

  • Review of the evidence base suggests the need to move beyond testing addiction interventions and instead understand change processes through psychosocial intervention.
  • Narratives of lived experience of those undergoing psychosocial intervention inform us that specific features relating to intervention, working relationship, motivation, identity and interpersonal factors instigate recovery.
  • Practitioners should consider a multi‐faceted approach in designing and applying psychosocial intervention for addiction.

Runa Dawood, John Done
Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice, 29 July 2020