Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Michael H. Logan

Committee Members

Benita J. Howell, Anne F. Rogers, Mark A. Hector


The primary objective of this project was to develop and test a mentorship program for a regional Native American youth treatment center. Many Native American adolescents who are discharged from treatment return to their peers and families who may still be using alcohol, thus greatly increasing the probability of relapse. This project was designed to provide these youth with sober, positive role models who would aid in providing the support needed to maintain client sobriety.

As a tool for this project, an epidemiological data base was developed at the Indian Health Service facility. A retrospective inventory of 165 client files was used to assess the treatment needs of this extremely diverse ethnic group. As a result, it was determined that many of these youths lacked family support for continued sobriety after treatment. Ten of the tribes from the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) who are served by the HIS regional treatment facility agreed to select mentors to participate in this pilot project. After the mentors completed a week-long training workshop, clients eligible for the program volunteered to connect with a community mentor during treatment and continue after discharge. Follow-up information concerning both clients and mentors was gathered in a series of interviews.

Of 33 clients eligible for mentorship, only 17 volunteered to sign a consent form to participate in the program. Of that 17, five failed to follow through with the program, never establishing contact with their mentors. Twenty-one of the 33 clients are therefore classified as non-participants, leaving 12 who participated in the mentorship program. Of those 12, four have relapsed since their discharge from treatment, for a 66.7 percent sobriety rate. This is a 21.7 percent improvement over the treatment center’s six month sobriety rate average of 45 percent. It is a 57.2 percent greater average than for those who had the opportunity to participate in the mentorship program, but did not. This dissertation examines possible reasons for this programs accomplishments among participants as well as reasons for its failure to engage clients.

Examination of areas in which the program was not successful has suggested ways to facilitate future mentorship implementation among American Indian communities. Most failures to consent or continue in the program were related to a lack of program planning or integration within community alcohol programs.

The value of using natural support systems from within Native communities is substantiated both by the sobriety of those participating and by the interest of other tribal communities who are seeking to implement this model. Developing a culturally sensitive treatment plan, measuring treatment program efficacy, and providing a program to reduce relapse after client discharge are all target areas of the Indian Health Service. The research which formed the basis for this dissertation has addressed each of these issues as they relate to the development and implementation of the mentorship program.

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