At the Intersection of Substance Abuse and Child Protection Services – Do Young People Who Use Substances Receive the Support They Need? NUPPU-project (2023-2025)

The NUPPU-project is a collaborative research projects in cooperation with project partners and it examines rehabilitative substance abuse services for young people. Social work research plays a crucial role in ensuring service pathways for young people with substance abuse problems. Research in the area is still scarce. The substance use and polarization of problematic use of substances among young people, the increasing availability of illicit substances, as well as the lack of and poor accessibility of targeted substance abuse services requires attention. The goal is to investigate the status and development needs of treatment of substance abuse problems among young people, as well as risk factors for well-being. The aim is to identify areas for improvement and establish effective service processes at the intersection of substance abuse and child protection.

The research employs a multimethod approach and various data sources (previous empirical research on the topic, online surveys, interviews, registry data). We will explore the following questions: 1) How has the substance abuse problem among young people been addressed? What have been the effective treatment practices, and what recommendations can be derived from previous research?, 2) What is the current state of substance abuse services for young people from the perspectives of experts and professionals in the field?, 3) What development needs arise when examining the interface between the substance abuse service system and child welfare?4), what is the experience of young people and their families regarding substance abuse services? 5) What risk factors can be identified among young people involved with child welfare and substance abuse services?

We investigate service system, resources and competencies of social work and other worker groups. It also studies the experiences of young people and their families regarding the services they receive.

The research project is funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (605/2020) 2023–2025.

Client Segmentation and Services for People with SUDs – Will the Effectiveness Improve? SEGMENT-project (2019–)

The heterogeneous nature of clients with substance use problems poses challenges in the organisation of services and also to the success of treatment. The service plan provides a setting for client’s path to services and is therefore significant from the perspective of treatment outcome.  The project will scrutinise client segmentation – that is, grouping clients according to their individual service needs and on the basis of characteristics with bearing on treatment – and the usability and effectiveness of these actions. The object of interest is the well-being effects of the segmentation of clients with substance use problems and the experiences of clients as regards segmentation. The study also scrutinises professionals’ views of the suitability of the digital Suuntima tool in designing the treatment paths of substance abuse treatment clients. We are concerned with the arm of the study regarding service chains in substance abuse treatment, which is part of the more extensive project Vaikuttava sosiaali- ja terveysalan TKI-ympäristö, KEHYS – Kehitämme yhdessä, a development project, the main implementing body being Pirkanmaa Hospital District and its Primary Health Care Unit.

The research project is funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (605/2020) 2021–2023.

Rights of substance abusing clients – new tools of the Social Welfare Act (2017–)

The content of the legislation on social care enacted in 1982 (SHL) was replaced by that of 2014 (1301), and was intended to strengthen the position of the legislation on social care as a vital piece of jurisprudence. While there has long been contemplation of the legislation on the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug related problems, the legislative trend may be said to be more towards legislation at the level of general legislation such as SHL. In the interpretation of the law and in legal consideration, attention is paid to the worker implementing it. Social work assumes a significant and ethically oriented role in providing clients with services. According to the new legislation, means are also available to improve the position of the clients of substance abuse services. The project is concerned with how the new concepts and practices contained in the SHL legislation, such as clients in special need of support (3. §), own worker (45. §) or decisions ensuring care and protection (46. §), are recognised and used in practical social work in the case of substance abuse clients. The research also seeks to elucidate how social workers feel these tools affect their substance abuse clients’ situations and rights.

Change in client’s well-being and rehabilitation activities in inpatient substance abuse treatment (2017–)

Rehabilitation from substance dependency is a lengthy process during which the client is supported by various treatment modes, endeavouring to impart a sense of trust in life and in the client’s ability to make a change in life. The study examines the efficacy of inpatient substance abuse treatment by ascertaining how client self-efficacy, hopefulness and well-being evolve during treatment and what premises it provides for maintaining the achieved change after treatment. A further object of interest is to study rehabilitation practices that support the client’s well-being and coping. The research seeks to generate knowledge about factors with bearing on achieving goals set for rehabilitation but also about the factors which predict risks for an undesired treatment outcome. The research is intended to generate basic knowledge about the effectiveness of inpatient substance abuse treatment among clients in substance abuse treatment (from the perspective of the service system) and also addresses how there are received (efficacy for people). Thus, alongside measuring change and results, note is taken of the clients’ situations and experiences.

The research project is funded by the Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies 2019–2022.

Anonymous encounters on illegal paths: An ethnographic study of the dark web and street-based harm reduction services for people using drugs (2021–)

The use of illicit drugs has increased and diversified significantly in Finland. The main reason for this is due to the shift of drug marketing from the streets to the anonymous dark web, from which drugs reach a wide audience. Changes in drug culture and drug markets have obliged the development of substance use services. Recently, harm reduction services taking place outside workers’ office spaces have been developed, and support has been provided to where people buy and use drugs, such as on the dark web and on the streets. However, little information is available on the meanings and benefits of this kind of work in reaching and encountering these people and reducing the harm caused by drug use. In this postdoc research project conducted by PhD Johanna Ranta, the ethnographic data consists of client-work encounters on the dark web and the streets, interviews with clients and workers and a researcher’s field diary. The project examines the opportunities, weaknesses and risks that the dark net and streets as meeting places pose for harm reduction work among people using illicit drugs. In particular, from the perspectives of clients and workers, the contents and meanings of harm reduction work encounters on the dark web and streets are studied. Furthermore, the verbal and non-verbal interactions during these encounters are also considered.

The research project is funded by the Kone Foundation 2022–2025.

Gambling as part of a regional experience economy concept: A socio-cultural analysis of the new Tampere casino (2020–)

Tampere is to have a second casino in Finland at autumn 2021. The objective of the study is to evaluate the casino project in view of the well-established social consequences of gambling caused the regionally emerging supply of opportunities for gambling. This will be accomplished by examining both pre- and post-settings. The TreAdd research group participates especially in studying the social implications. The expectations of how the casino will affect the city will be evaluated by social workers, police officers and debt counselling officials before and after the casino is opened. The study is expected to result in a framework for understanding how a new gambling venue – as part of the commercial urban space of the city – is viewed as causing harm and trouble within professional communities. Collaboration is ongoing with Paula Jääskeläinen and Michael Egerer in the Centre for Research on Addiction, Control and Governance (CEACG, University of Helsinki). This study will form part of Jääskeläinen’s doctoral dissertation. Within the project she has also studied city representatives’ views on the opening of a casino through the lens of the experience economy in order to understand how gambling is justified by proponents and opponents of the casino project.

Client satisfaction with social work at the social welfare offices (2014–2018)

The structural and functional changes in the municipalities occurring in the 2000s caused productivity to become a major objective in decision-making, including in the social field. However, service quality cannot be measured by consulting economic factors; attention also needs to be paid to issues of human efficacy. In evaluating the effectiveness of services, attention should be paid to the views of clients; this is also important for ethical reasons. The aim of social work is to achieve a change for the better in the life of the client. The project sought to learn about how clients of adult social work relate to the future and their experiences regarding how clientship helped them in making a change in their life situations. Data collection took place before the transfer of income support from the municipalities to the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela). Collaboration was done with the SOS II project under the Kaste development programme of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The project has ended.

Effectiveness of substance abuse treatment in light of common factors (2007–2010)

Despite best efforts towards improving the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment, it has been challenging and achieving better efficacy has called for new strategies. Research has repeatedly stressed the need to study the common factors which are present in the therapy situation but which are not specific to a certain therapeutic method. The project focused on the effects of common factors on substance abuse treatment effectiveness. The project sought more detailed knowledge about what therapists do, about the therapeutic alliance between client and therapist and about how clients’ expectations and beliefs regarding treatment influence effectiveness. Attention was moreover paid to therapist’s background, personality and motivation for entering the field and also to the significance of therapist’s gender from the perspective of effectiveness. The project sought to generate wide-ranging knowledge about therapists’ actions, the co-operative relationship pertaining between therapist and client and client’ expectations and beliefs regarding treatment effectiveness. The findings are of significance in training of substance abuse treatment professionals and in supervision of their work. From the perspective of treatment effectiveness, the findings can also be utilised in order to reduce the rate of dropping out of treatment. The project was led by Professor Pekka Saarnio and Dr. Katja Kuusisto is in charge of current publishing activity regarding secondary analyses.

The research project was funded by the Academy of Finland 2007–2010.