A considerable number of people struggling with substance abuse also have personal experiences with mental health problems. For this reason, the treatment of substance addiction and mental illness must be seen in connection, as is the case with research on effective forms of treatment.

A key concern for the research group for Mental Health and Substance Abuse is how therapists may be certain that their patients are really making progress as a result of their treatment. Based on the notion that a clear and accurate understanding of the patient’s current condition allows the therapist to adjust the treatment accordingly, the Psychiatric Clinic at Førde Hospital has developed a clinical feedback system. As a routine, all patients are asked to participate in digital self-reporting on a tablet prior to medical consultations. When submitted, a report and concomitant graphics are generated and can form the basis for the discussion between the patient and the therapist. The data is then transferred electronically to the patient’s record, where it is saved.

Clinical feedback systems and concomitant quality registries have proved a success in terms of assessing the effectiveness of treatment and in determining which treatment is most suitable. The system facilitates a higher degree of user participation, and helps ensure a more even balance of power in the therapy room. For researchers, the clinical feedback system constitutes a highly valuable data set which is of great use in clinical effect research as well as process research.

User participation is also at the heart of the second key research topic of the research group. Inviting admitted hospital patients to influence various aspects of the services offered, can be an effective way of enhancing the quality of hospital services, in addition to representing a therapeutic asset. The substance abuse and addiction rehabilitation unit at Førde Hospital has developed an entirely new model of organization based on the principle of user participation.

As a part of this model, admitted patients, personnel, and leaders attend meetings regularly to draft plans for changes that are then carried out in practice. It is considered a key premise for the suitability of this model of organization that the drafted plans are implemented in practice. Moreover, it is essential that patients, personnel and leaders participate on equal terms. The Center for Health Research has been granted funding from UH-nett Vest to establish a professional collaboration forum on user participation in Western Norway.

Approximately 20 researchers belong to the research group for mental health and substance addiction. Five of these are PhD candidates (2015). The group seeks to expand its activity through providing funding for additional PhD projects. The group is led by Christian Moltu, Psychologist and Head of the Psychiatric Clinic at Førde Hospital. In accordance with the strategy plan of Helse Førde, the research group for mental health and substance abuse receives additional internal funding.

Selected projects

How well does routine measuring (ROM) function in mental health care – a qualitative study: The project examines how patients and therapists experience the implementation and use of a treatment system called Normative Outcome System for Evaluation (NORSE). The purpose of the project is to improve the outcome of patient treatment. The PhD project is carried out by Runar Hovland.

User participation within mileu therapy in mental health care: This qualitative research project is planned and implemented in close collaboration with a group of co-researchers which comprises both researchers and mental care patients. The PhD project is carried out by Kari Eldal.

Qualitative study of patients’ experiences with Førde Hospital Trust’s clinical feedback system for mental health care: The project involves filming therapy sessions where the clinical feedback system is used and carrying out interviews with patients while they are watching the recorded video. PhD project by Stig Magne Solstad (Psychologist in specialist training)

Personnel and user participation in service development: In this project, patients, personnel, leaders, and researchers co-produce a method that ensures user participation in service development. The study was carried out in a cross-disciplinary, specialized unit for substance rehabilitation in Førde. PhD project carried out by Tone Larsen

The Art and Science of Conducting Psychotherapy: This international research project involves researchers from Scotland and the USA, as well as Norway. The Norwegian part of the project is funded by the University of Oslo and the Western Norway Regional Health Authority. The project examines important processes of change related to psychological treatment. Christian Moltu is conducting his post doc research through this project.