Conflict and user involvement in drug misuse treatment decision-making: a qualitative study

Jan Fischer, Joanne Neale, Michael Bloor, Nicholas Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: This paper examines client/staff conflict and user involvement in drug misuse treatment decision-making.

Methods: Seventy-nine in-depth interviews were conducted with new treatment clients in two residential and two community drug treatment agencies. Fifty-nine of these clients were interviewed again after twelve weeks. Twenty-seven interviews were also conducted with staff, who were the keyworkers for the interviewed clients.

Results: Drug users did not expect, desire or prepare for conflict at treatment entry. They reported few actual conflicts within the treatment setting, but routinely discussed latent conflicts - that is, negative experiences and problematic aspects of current or previous treatment that could potentially escalate into overt disputes. Conflict resulted in a number of possible outcomes, including the premature termination of treatment; staff deciding on the appropriate outcome; the client appealing to the governance structure of the agency; brokered compromise; and staff skilfully eliciting client consent for staff decisions.

Conclusion: Although the implementation of user involvement in drug treatment decision-making has the potential to trigger high levels of staff-client conflict, latent conflict is more common than overt conflict and not all conflict is negative. Drug users generally want to be co-operative at treatment entry and often adopt non-confrontational forms of covert resistance to decisions about which they disagree. Staff sometimes deploy user involvement as a strategy for managing conflict and soliciting client compliance to treatment protocols. Suggestions for minimising and avoiding harmful conflict in treatment settings are given.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalSubstance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2008


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