Open Access Research

Substance abuse treatment client experience in an employed population: results of a client survey

Elizabeth L Merrick1*, Sharon Reif1, Deirdre Hiatt2, Dominic Hodgkin1, Constance M Horgan1 and Grant Ritter1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Behavioral Health, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, MS035, Waltham, MA 02454-9110, USA

2 Health Net, 2370 Kerner Boulevard, Mail Stop: 909 02 05, San Rafael, CA 94901, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2012, 7:4  doi:10.1186/1747-597X-7-4

Published: 17 January 2012



Understanding client perspectives on treatment is increasingly recognized as key to improving care. Yet information on the perceptions and experiences of workers with private insurance coverage who receive help for substance use conditions is relatively sparse, particularly in managed behavioral health care organization (MBHO) populations. Furthermore, the role of several factors including prior service use has not been fully explored.


Employees covered by a large MBHO who had received substance abuse services in the past year were surveyed (146 respondents completed the telephone survey and self-reported service use).


The most common reasons for entering treatment were problems with health; home, family or friends; or work. Prior treatment users reported more reasons for entering treatment and more substance use-related work impairment. The majority of all respondents felt treatment helped a lot or some. One quarter reported getting less treatment than they felt they needed.

Discussion and conclusions

Study findings point to the need to tailor treatment for prior service users and to recognize the role of work in treatment entry and outcomes. Perceived access issues may be present even among insured clients already in treatment.