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Parents and Teens Together (PATT): A Dyadic Digital Intervention to Prevent Substance Use Disorders

Funding Source

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Center for Technology and Behavioral Health Pilot Core

Project Period

August 2023 - July 2024

Principal Investigator

Amy Hughes Lansing, PhD; Inbal (Billie) Nahum-Shani, PhD

Other Project Staff

Susan Murphy, PhD (Co-Investigator); Guy Shani, PhD (Co-Investigator); Catherine Stanger, PhD (Co-Investigator); Laura Cohen (Graduate Research Assistant); Nathan Hacker (Graduate Research Assistant); Bridget Clark (Staff Research Project Coordinator)

Project Summary

Young teens that experiment with alcohol, cannabis, or tobacco use before age 15 are 4x to 6x more likely to experience a substance use disorder (SUD). Early substance use (SU) is a detectable early danger sign for SUDs and is ideally responded to via indicated prevention intervention, which provides individualized support for youth with signs foreshadowing a SUD. A best practice indicated prevention for SUD in young teens that experiment with SU is ecologically-tailored behavioral family therapy. Unfortunately, families of young teens that experiment with SU are unable to readily access behavioral family therapy for indicated prevention.

To bridge this accessibility gap, web- and app-delivered resources are available for self-guided instruction on the core family management skills taught in behavioral family therapy: parental monitoring and family communication for problem-solving, relationship building, and talking about substance use. Although these resources are highly accessible, parental monitoring and family communication are complex parent-teen dyadic tasks that behavioral family therapy shapes via extensive practice and in-time support. Accessible prevention programs that can teach and support parents and teens in using family management skills in daily life are urgently needed for SUD prevention in families of young teens experimenting with SU.

In this project, we are launching the development of Parents and Teens Together (PATT), a dyadic digital parent-teen intervention to bridge this accessibility gap. PATT will leverage a blended, virtual and health coach-led, single session intervention (SSI) and just-in-time adaptive intervention (JITAI) technology to scale-up access to personalized instruction and support for young teens experimenting with SU and their parents. As a first step in the iterative design of PATT, we are conducting an open trial with mixed methods design to test the acceptability, feasibility and costs of the SSI and engaging in a participatory design process to finalize the plan for an initial JITAI prototype. Completion of this project will result in a refined PATT prototype ready for software development and user testing.