Applying Research to Real-World Practice: Implementing Intervention and Treatment Programs on Campus
Differentiating Between Sanction and Policy
The process of implementing effective intervention and treatment programs does not end with the adoption of an evidence-based strategy. Building on-campus capacity and infrastructure from the beginning is essential to the success and sustainability of the program. Involving a campus team of stakeholders in developing a strategic plan for program implementation that incorporates the following tactics is a good starting point:
- Allocate sufficient resources and tools to the implementation process
- Assess and fortify staffing capacity, including:
- Gatekeepers – staff and faculty who serve as “eyes and ears” and may refer students who need assistance
- Administrators – build campus-wide support
- Practitioners – staff who will deliver the intervention to students
- Provide sufficient and ongoing training to these staff.
- Secure adequate funding for the maintenance of the programs over time
- Plan for the evaluation of implementation processes and program outcomes
- Identify likely participants in the program/target populations
- Develop procedures for referring, recruiting and retaining students in the program who are identified as high risk
- Determine intervention and treatment delivery sites and methods
- Create site-specific protocols for chosen interventions and/or treatments
- Ensure there is sufficient staff to handle increased demand for services generated by increased recruitment and referral
Fidelity and Adaptation
Fidelity to the core components of any research-supported program is necessary for the success of the intervention. For example, one of the core components of the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) is the individualized feedback given to the students regarding their drinking attitudes and behaviors. If this component is excluded from a campus BASICS protocol, then that campus may no longer be delivering an evidence-based intervention.
On the other hand, failure to adapt the program to fit the unique characteristics and needs of your campus can negatively impact both the effects and sustainability of the intervention over time. For example, the original BASICS research uses licensed clinical psychologists to deliver the intervention. Yet, the effectiveness of the intervention is not diminished when delivered by properly trained counseling center staff, graduate students, or health educators. In this case, the willingness of a campus to modify the original protocol allows for increased on-campus capacity with no reduction in efficacy.
Achieving both of these goals can be challenging, and each campus must find its own balance.