Patient Violence Towards Counselors in Substance Use Disorder Treatment Programs: Prevalence, Predictors, and Responses


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Workplace violence disproportionately impacts healthcare and social service providers. Given that substance use and abuse are documented risk factors for the perpetration of violence, SUD treatment personnel are at risk for patient-initiated violence. However, little research has addressed SUD treatment settings. Using data nationally representative of the U. S., the present study explores SUD counselors’ experiences of violent behaviors perpetrated by patients. More than half (53%) of counselors personally experienced violence, 44% witnessed violence, and 61% had knowledge of violence directed at a colleague. Counselors reported that exposure to violence led to an increased concern for personal safety (29%), impacted their treatment of patients (15%), and impaired job performance (12%). In terms of organizational responses to patient violence, 70% of organizations increased training on de-escalation of violent situations and 58% increased security measures. Exposure to verbal assault was associated with age, minority, tenure, recovery status, 12-step philosophy, training in MI/MET, and higher caseloads of patients with co-occurring disorders. Exposure to physical threats was associated with age gender, minority, tenure, recovery status, and higher caseloads of patients with co-occurring disorders. Exposure to physical assault was associated with age, gender, and sample. Implications of these findings for organizations and individuals are discussed.

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