Examining the use of visual performance feedback in drug treatment court – 2018-02

A key component of drug courts is regular status hearings in which the judge reviews client progress and imposes sanctions or rewards for infractions or achievements; however, little is known about whether drug court clients fully understand the reasons for judicial responses and make clear connections between their behavior and judicially imposed consequences. Thus, we hypothesized that providing graphic performance feedback would improve clients’ perceptions of procedural justice and increase the likelihood of success. This study examines the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a visual performance feedback (VPF) procedure designed to improve judge–client communication during status hearings. Seventy-five adult misdemeanor drug court participants were randomized to a VPF (n = 37) or status hearings as usual (n = 38) condition. In the VPF condition, the judge projected and described two graphs for each client (i.e., abstinence rates, treatment attendance for the past two months). Outcomes included feasibility, client and stakeholder acceptability, urinalysis-confirmed abstinence, treatment attendance, perceptions of procedural justice, and duration of client–judge interactions. Findings revealed a high level of judge adherence to the VPF (feasibility), client and stakeholder acceptability of the VPF procedure, and significantly longer client–judge interactions in the VPF condition. No significant differences were observed for client-level efficacy outcomes. Overall, this study demonstrated that providing VPF to drug court clients during judicial status hearings is feasible and acceptable. Future fully powered trials of the VPF procedure are needed to further examine its efficacy in improving outcomes for drug court clients.

Festinger, D. S., Dugosh, K. L., & Della Porta, J. M.
Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 26(1), 85-93. (2018)