Attitudes toward Substance Abuse Clients: An Empirical Study of Clinical Psychology Trainees

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry; Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; *Attitude of Health Personnel; Education, Medical, Graduate; Female; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; *Psychology, Clinical; *Substance-Related Disorders; Young Adult


Clinical Psychology | Medical Education | Psychiatry and Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction | Translational Medical Research


Despite the high prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD) and its frequent comorbidity with mental illness, individuals with SUD are less likely to receive effective SUD treatment from mental health practitioners than SUD counselors. Limited competence and interest in treating this clinical population are likely influenced by a lack of formal training in SUD treatment. Using a factorial survey-vignette design that included three clinical vignettes and a supplementary survey instrument, we investigated whether clinical psychology doctoral students differ in their level of negative emotional reactions toward clients with SUD versus major depressive disorder (MDD); whether they differ in their attributions for SUD versus MDD; and how their negative emotional reactions and attributions impact their interest in pursuing SUD clinical work. Participants were 155 clinical psychology graduate-level doctoral students (72% female). Participants endorsed more negative emotional reactions toward clients with SUD than toward clients with MDD. They were also more likely to identify poor willpower as the cause for SUD than for MDD. More than a third reported interest in working with SUD populations. Highest levels of interest were associated with prior professional and personal experience with SUD, four to six years of clinical experience, and postmodern theoretical orientation.


UMCCTS funding

DOI of Published Version



J Psychoactive Drugs. 2015 Sep-Oct;47(4):293-300. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2015.1076090. Epub 2015 Sep 16. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of psychoactive drugs

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID