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Learning How to Ask - Does a one-day training increase trauma inquiry in routine substance use disorder practice? Results of a cluster-randomized controlled trial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Annett Lotzin
  • Sven Buth
  • Susanne Sehner
  • Philipp Hiller
  • Marcus Sebastian Martens
  • John Read
  • Martin Härter
  • Sean Cowlishaw
  • Ingo Schäfer
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-16
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of substance abuse treatment
Early online date7 Aug 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Aug 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 7 Aug 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Dec 2019



To examine the effectiveness of a one-day skills training program for increasing trauma inquiry in routine substance use disorder treatment. 


Cluster-randomized two-armed controlled trial, with 12 substance use disorder (SUD) organizations operating 25 counseling centers, randomly assigned to training in trauma inquiry (13 counseling centers of 8 SUD organizations) or no training (12 counseling centers of 4 SUD organizations). 


SUD counseling centers in Northern Germany. 


N = 5204 SUD counseling services. 


The professionals assigned to the intervention group received a one-day training in trauma inquiry plus a 1.5-hour refresher session 3 months later. Professionals in the control group received no training. 


Over a 12-month period, professionals documented for each counseling service whether they asked the client about four traumatic events: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. 


Primary outcomes were rates of asking about physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect in the 6 months after training. These were compared across conditions, while adjusting for baseline probabilities in the 6 months before training, using mixed-effects logistic regression. 


In the 6 months after training, the rate of asking about physical abuse was 18% higher in the SUD counseling services of trained professionals, relative to services of untrained professionals (OR = 1.18, 95% CI = [1.01–1.37, p = .035]). No effect was found for asking about sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. 


A one-day training program in trauma inquiry, combined with a brief refresher session, was effective in increasing inquiries about physical abuse in routine counseling practice. The training was ineffective in increasing inquiries about sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. The effectiveness of a one-day training of trauma inquiry might be increased by a longer training, or by combining it with additional elements, such as ongoing supervision.

    Research areas

  • Abuse, Addiction, Counseling, Neglect, Substance abuse, Substance dependence, Trauma inquiry, Trauma-informed care, Violence


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