UB RIA awarded grant to develop telephone-based clinical
skill assessment tool
BUFFALO, N.Y. –There is a growing trend to make clinical
training available to alcohol and drug abuse treatment
professionals via the Internet and through distance learning. It is
cost effective and can deliver training in current evidence-based
practices to audiences for whom access may be limited.
While ensuring that trainees can correctly apply the clinical
skills taught during training is crucial, evaluation of whether or
not clinical skills are correctly applied can be challenging
because it is typically done through role playing. The assessment
of role playing requires feedback as well as reviewing the
application of that feedback.
When training is delivered via the Internet and/or through
distance learning, clinical skills application assessment might
require tools such as video conferencing, which are
cost-prohibitive for many organizations.
The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA)
has been awarded a $267,469 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism (NIAAA) grant to refine a telephone-based clinical
assessment tool for evaluating the training of drug and alcohol
counselors – a tool that is built on existing data –
and then to conduct a psychometric evaluation for its
“The idea for the grant came about because of a challenge
we encountered on a previous study -- the ‘Behavioral
Interventions with Couples Project’ or BIC project,”
said Christopher Barrick, PhD, RIA research scientist and the
principal investigator on the new grant.
According to Barrick, the previous study involved expert
clinicians in the field of substance abuse who were trained in
behavioral couples therapy. The research compared the effects of
being trained at an in-person workshop versus distance learning via
video conference. The objective was to assess gains in
knowledge and clinical skill following the workshop.
Assessing knowledge was straightforward – trainees were
asked to respond to a web-based questionnaire.
“Assessing clinical skill was more complicated,”
“How could we conduct a role play, a traditional method of
clinical skill assessment, with our distance-learning trainees,
many of whom were in the greater Rochester area? Sending
research staff to conduct in-person role plays would have been too
time-consuming and costly.
“To address this need, we developed a method that used
interactive voice recording (IVR). Essentially, trainees
telephoned in and the IVR system acted like a sophisticated voice
mail system, capturing unrehearsed responses to clinical questions.
It was a good start, but the method needs refinement. That's the
goal of this current research grant.”
Barrick says the specific goals of the project are to refine and
extend the existing assessment tool developed in the BIC project,
and conduct a psychometric evaluation to examine the
generalizability, alternate form reliability and construct validity
of the tool.
“My co-investigator at RIA, Dr. Neil McGillicuddy, also a
research scientist at the UB Research Institute on Addictions, has
had experience developing similar instruments before, and I'm
excited to collaborate with him on this project,” said
Barrick says this particular project focuses on developing a
methodology that could be used in a variety of fields.
“It just happens that there is a trend toward making
trainings available to substance abuse treatment clinicians via the
Internet and other distance learning methods, so this is a good fit
with the broader needs of the field at the moment.
“There is a lot of great treatment and intervention
research currently going on in the substance abuse field.
Unfortunately, there has been an ongoing problem of
transferring that work into community practice. This project
is a part of this broad area of research that looks at better ways
to make the big investment in treatment and intervention research
pay off and gets those results into the hands of people who can use
it,” he said.
The grant is scheduled to run from December 2012 to December