Plenary Session 5

Behavior change in the addictions: Interpreting group-level findings on digital interventions from an individual perspective

Anne H. Berman, Center for Psychiatry Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Sweden

Chair: T. Gual

Abstract: Healthy behavior change among individuals with addictive behaviors can take place in a large variety of ways. It is well known that proportionately few individuals seek formal treatment, and that unassisted recovery from addictive behaviors is common. Although the volume of research on digital interventions is rapidly increasing, little is known about the role of these interventions in the recovery process as a whole. In this presentation I will address problematic use of alcohol, drugs and gambling, presenting meta-analytic data on treatment-assisted behavior change and findings from my own research on a stepped care model of digital intervention for problematic alcohol use. I will also address the question of what we currently know about which treatment components might be most effective. Turning to the concept of recovery from addictive behaviors, I will review recent research and reflect on the possible role of digital interventions in facilitating individual recovery, from public health and clinical perspectives. Key factors influencing behavior change and treatment-seeking, such as motivation, problem severity and co-morbidity, will be part of the discussion. In conclusion, I will suggest meaningful research questions to go forward with, as well as address issues of study design. The presentation should increase our knowledge about recovery pathways, understanding of what the role of the digital intervention in recovery pathways might be, and inform our reasoning about who might benefit from different types of digital interventions and at what timepoint in their pathway to recovery.

Anne H. Berman is Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute. Since 2005, she has led a research group on digital interventions for problematic substance use, building and evaluating the components of a stepped care model. Clinically, she has worked as a psychotherapist in the Stockholm Center for Dependency Disorders for 10 years, and then as director of the Swedish National Helpline for problem gamblers and their family members until April 2019, currently serving as a scientific advisor for the helpline. Anne has authored over 80 publications, including 71 peer-review articles, 4 books and 10 book chapters. Her most cited publication is about the Drug Use Disorders Identification Test (DUDIT), which is used all over the world in a variety of healthcare and research contexts. Anne coordinated an international Research-oriented network on e-health interventions for addictive behaviors, resulting in publication of a Special issue on this topic in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine in October 2017, as well as in a tool for standardized reporting of key characteristics of digital interventions. Anne has a longstanding interest in behavioral medicine and has produced a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on behavioral medicine, KIBEHMEDx, available without cost on the platform. She is currently President-Elect for the International Society of Behavioral Medicine (, and was honored by a Distinguished Career Contribution Award in Behavioral Medicine in November, 2018.