Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Stevie N. Grassetti, Ph.D.

Committee Member

V.K. Kumar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sami Abdel-Salam, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eleanor Brown, Ph.D.


Juvenile offenders who use substances are at an increased risk for multitude of negative outcomes, including substance use problems in adulthood and recidivism. Interventions that are effective in community settings or long-term juvenile justice settings may not be well suited for implementation in short-term juvenile detention facilities. Free Talk (FT; D’Amico, Chan Osilla, & Hunter, 2010) is a brief motivational intervention that targets motivation to change substance use. The current study aimed to determine whether youth participating in FT within a short-term juvenile detention center reported expected changes in motivation to change substance use. Additionally, we aimed to assess whether individual differences at baseline, like depression and substance use, were associated with variance in treatment outcome.

The youth (N=49) detained in a short-term juvenile detention facility participated in FT. Motivation was assessed at baseline and following the last session using the University of Rhode Island Change Assessment (URICA; DiClemente, Schlundt, & Gemmel, 2004) and the Modified Contemplation Ladder (Biener & Abrams, 1991; Slavet et al., 2006). At post-treatment, participants reported statistically significant decreases in motivation on the URICA but did not report significant changes in motivation on the Contemplation Ladder.

Although motivation decreased overall, results indicate higher levels of baseline substance use and baseline depression predicted greater increases in motivation. Although findings did not provide support for including FT as part of a general curriculum within short-term detention centers, results suggest that FT may be beneficial for those who report problematic substance use or depressive symptoms. Results are discussed in terms of feasibility and suggested adaptations.