Challenges in recruiting for psychological interventions


Michalek, A.K., Kan, D., & Prochaska, J. (2015) Engaging veterans with substance abuse disorders into a research trial: Success with study branding, networking, and presence. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 5, 167-176.


This article describes that steps that a study team used to recruit and retain a high-risk, potentially hard- to-engage population for complex behavioral intervention.  The PI and research team recognized that the success of their randomized clinical trial was dependent on engaging eligible Veterans with substance abuse disorders from a specific Center and then retaining them over a 12 month period.  As such, they strategized and implemented a 4-pronged evidence-based approach which included branding, outreach and networking, onsite presence of research team members at key locations and events, and participant incentives.  Data is provided about the effectiveness of this combination of strategies as related to speed of recruitment as well as the representativeness of the sample.

I CHOSE THIS ARTICLE, because I do not think that the challenges in recruiting for psychological and behavioral interventions are discussed often enough; as a result, we do not have the opportunity to review or problem-solve effective approaches that are specific in our work with varied rehabilitation populations.  In grant applications, the focus is generally on the number of potential participants we have access to rather than on the strategies we have identified or the resources that we have set aside to cover personnel, advertising, giveaways, mailings, and other costs for recruitment and retention.   The reality is that our science depends on engaging and retaining a diverse and representative group of participants in our research.  As such, we need to learn from the evidence-based strategies that are used by others in psychology and behavioral medicine while facilitating a discussion of our own best practices within Rehabilitation Psychology. 

This month's Rehab Science Spotlight was chosen by Michelle A. Meade, PhD, Associate Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan, and a member of Division 22's Science Committee.