HRI Releases Annual Report and Announces New Look

We have released our first Annual Report describing milestones and accomplishments achieved during the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

As we reflect on the past year, we are reminded that we have many reasons to celebrate. To name a few:

  • Our scientists received national funding to support vital research projects aimed at improving treatment for people diagnosed with addiction and PTSD.
  • HRI has established partnerships that will enable us to help military members and veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) using an innovative cognitive training program. Research will be expanded to include police and first responders.
  • HRI’s Post-Discharge Outcome Monitoring System (PDO) enrolled nearly 1000 participants. The PDO project, which collect evaluates the long-term impacts of addiction treatment, has gained national attention and will be used to inform care across Canada.
  • HRI established a new Strategic Plan to guide our growth over the next five years as we work to build a national enterprise with a more robust research program.

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A New Look for HRI

As HRI embarks on a new and ambitious phase of growth, we are pleased to launch a new brand identity that reflects our sharpened focus on building collaborative networks to bridge research and practice. You will notice that the 2016-2017 Annual Report incorporates our updated branding.

Our new logo signifies our unwavering commitment to making connections and finding solutions. Our icon uses an upward trend line, symbolizing improvement and transformation. Other visual elements, such as brand colours and imagery, represent calmness, hope, strength and impact.  The logo places emphasis on the word research, because research is the foundation on which our organization is built.

Infographic: A Closer Look at the Recovery Journey

HRI has created an infographic summarizing early findings from the Post-Discharge Outcomes Monitoring System (PDO), also known to Homewood patients as the Recovery Journey Project.

The infographic outlines changes in various indicators of recovery between the time of admission and 12-months post-discharge for patients who receive treatment in the Addiction Medicine Service at Homewood Health Centre. It also provides an overview of participant demographics, abstinence trends, and changes in occupational performance, social roles, and overall life satisfaction.

Unique in Canada, HRI’s PDO system supports the comprehensive evaluation of the long-term impacts of treatment interventions. Future directions for this initiative include the expansion and tailoring of the system to measure outcomes among those treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. The PDO system provides a thorough and quantifiable understanding of what happens once patients leave residential care and holds great promise for evaluating and informing evidence-based care across Canada.

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Examining the Utility of Mindfulness-based Treatments for PTSD

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur after exposure to a traumatic event, such as witnessing death, serious injury or violence. It causes intrusive symptoms that interfere with daily function and quality of life.

Common treatments for PTSD, including Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE) and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), have proven effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD. But a substantial number of patients do not fully recover following PE and CPT interventions.

Recent emerging studies indicate that mindfulness-based treatments may prove promising as complementary or alternative approaches to further assist people suffering from PTSD.

PhD Student, Jenna Boyd, in collaboration with HRI scientists Dr. Ruth Lanius and Dr. Margaret McKinnon (Boyd, Lanius, McKinnon, 2017) reviewed treatment literature and neurological evidence regarding mindfulness-based interventions for PTSD. The paper investigates the theoretical basis for the utility of mindfulness-based approaches in the treatment of PTSD, explores the overlap between neurobiological models of PTSD and the neurobiology of mindfulness, and discusses limitations and future directions for the potential efficacy of these approaches in treating PTSD.

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HRI Announces New Strategic Plan

We are pleased to announce that the HRI Board has approved a new Strategic Plan, identifying the strategic priorities that will move us closer to achieving our mission to improve outcomes of mental health and addiction treatments. Over the next five years, HRI will focus on building the foundation for a national enterprise that will help to guide mental health care in Canada into the next decade and beyond.

In preparation for this new phase of growth, HRI has attracted a small core group of international leaders in mental health and addiction research and evaluation. We are now set to build networks around these leaders, establish a national profile, build training programs, and bring researchers and clinical leaders together to co-create programs to improve practice. HRI will serve as a hub for the enabling of both innovative research and enhanced patient care.

“As we build out these networks and programs, we look forward to joining forces with like-minded individuals and organizations, pooling resources to maximize our collective impact in addressing Canada’s mental health and addiction crisis,” says Roy Cameron, Executive Director of HRI.

Strat Plan Summary 11-2017

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Moving Toward a Systematic Understanding of Addiction Care

In 2016, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) partnered with the National Recovery Advisory Committee to conduct the first Canadian survey of people in recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Modeled after Life in Recovery (LIR) surveys previously conducted in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, CCSA’s LIR study engaged 855 individuals recovering from addiction, and asked them about stigma, barriers to care, the recovery journey, and life in recovery.

CCSA’s Technical Report, released in May 2017, details the results of the Life in Recovery survey. General findings revealed that:

  • Recovery leads to positive citizenship and life outcomes, such as improvements in work, finances, family life and overall health
  • Individuals use a variety of recovery resources, including informal supports (e.g., family and friends, religion and spirituality) and formal recovery programs (e.g., 12-Step support, detoxification programs, residential treatment), and
  • Individuals experience a range of challenges – including financial barriers, stigma, treatment delays, lack of services, and lack of service quality – when seeking treatment.

This survey sheds light on the cost of addiction and the complexity of recovery. Importantly, CCSA notes that recovery from addiction is achievable when people have access to quality, evidence-informed services and supports.

That’s where HRI comes in.

We work to integrate emerging data from studies such as CCSA’s, and from our own research projects, into clinical practice. But we also extend research into the post-discharge phase of treatment, picking up where other studies leave off, to build the data-driven care that benefits individuals struggling with addiction.

HRI’s Post-Discharge Outcomes Monitoring System is unique in Canada and generates data to evaluate the long-term impacts of treatment interventions. This data system will also allow for the development and testing of innovations to improve the treatment experience of patients, generate better outcomes, and offer better value for money – which, according to CCSA’s study – is exactly what Canada needs to advance addiction treatment.

The Life in Recovery survey is an important step toward a systematic understanding of addiction care in Canada. Emerging data gives hope to individuals in recovery and highlights the importance of applied mental health and addictions research in Canada, which is what we do every day at HRI.

Here are a few ways you can get involved and help us move mental health and addiction care forward in Canada:

Does Patient Experience Affect Addiction Treatment Outcomes?

In any industry, product and service improvements are most impactful when based upon reliable feedback from those who use and benefit from those products and services.

This perspective has driven the development of data collection tools that measure patient experiences in healthcare systems. To date, research in the general healthcare sector has shown that patient experience is positively associated with self-rated and objectively measured health outcomes, such as adherence to recommended treatments, use of preventive care services, and patient safety outcomes.1

Over the past two years, HRI helped to take this research into the field of addiction treatment. Using the Ontario Perception of Care – Mental Health and Addictions (OPOC-MHA) tool – an evidence-based tool that standardizes how mental health and addiction agencies obtain feedback about client perceptions of care – HRI, in partnership with Homewood Health Centre, has collected data to shed light on the relationship between perceptions of care and post-discharge outcomes in residential care. This work was part of a larger initiative led by Dr. Brian Rush, who co-developed the OPOC-MHA tool, to test it in a variety of treatment settings; Homewood was the only site to test the OPOC-MHA tool in a residential care facility.

How did we do this?

As part of HRI’s Post-Discharge Outcomes Monitoring System, which measures recovery-oriented outcomes up to one year post-discharge, the 38-item OPOC-MHA survey tool was administered to patients of Homewood Health Centre’s residential addiction program. 215 participants completed the baseline, discharge and one-month post-discharge questionnaires.

The OPOC-MHA tool measures seven domains, including access and entry to services, services provided, participation and rights, environment, discharge, and the overall experience (including service quality).

The focus of HRI’s analyses was OPOC-MHA item 31, which rates service quality and can be considered a proxy measure for overall patient satisfaction.

What did we find?

Participants who rated service quality more highly at discharge were, at one month post-discharge, significantly more likely to report:

  • Adherence to their treatment recommendations
  • High motivation to continue engaging in recovery
  • Better self-perceived mental and physical health, and
  • Better quality of life

In other words, delivering quality services matters. Perception of care may be an important indicator for addiction services providers to monitor regularly, since it relates to patient recovery outcomes.

What happens next?

HRI, in collaboration with Dr. Rush, has prepared an abstract to be presented at the 2017 Issues of Substance Conference in November 2017, in Calgary, Alberta. HRI is also preparing a manuscript for publication, detailing our research findings related to the importance of perception of care and its implications for improved patient outcomes.

The HRI–Homewood study and other projects led by Dr. Rush have established the value of the OPOC tool. Based on this research, it is now being used at Homewood and across Ontario.

To learn more about the Ontario Perception of Care – Mental Health and Addictions tool, click here. For continued updates on HRI’s research around perceptions of care, subscribe to our newsletter, HRI Connects, or visit

1. Doyle, C., Lennox, L., Bell, D. (2013) A systematic review of evidence on the links between patient experience and clinical safety and effectiveness. BMH Open Access, 3:e001570.

Examining the Role of Therapeutic Alliance in Patient Recovery

The quality of the relationship between patient and therapist is known as therapeutic alliance. Therapeutic alliance describes the level of trust and engagement between a patient and members of his or her treatment team. Research on therapeutic alliance examines the bond between patient and therapist, the level of agreement between both parties on treatment goals and therapeutic tasks, and how these factors influence treatment success.

Therapeutic alliance is specifically important to the recovery process among those seeking treatment for addiction and mental illness. Research has shown that the development of a strong therapeutic relationship predicts better treatment outcomes.

As part of HRI’s outcome monitoring system, our research team has been measuring therapeutic alliance in patients of the Addiction Medicine Service at Homewood Health Centre for more than two years.

Prior to discharge, participants are asked to rate six statements relating to mutual respect and mutual agreement on goals and therapeutic tasks. Overall, ratings of therapeutic alliance were strong among participants. When contacted 30 days after discharge, those who rated their therapeutic alliance the strongest were significantly more likely to report high levels of confidence (also referred to as “self-efficacy”) in their ability to work on their recovery. In addition, those who reported higher ratings of therapeutic alliance also reported higher levels of self-perceived mental health and physical health at one month post-discharge.

What does this mean?

Strong therapeutic alliance is linked to higher levels of self-efficacy, and research has shown that self-efficacy is an important factor in achieving enduring behaviour change, such as reduced substance use. So these early findings suggest that a strong therapeutic alliance helps to set people up for success.

Where will this research go?

In November 2017, HRI will share detailed findings of our research on therapeutic alliance at the Issues of Substance Conference, hosted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, in Calgary, Alberta.
In future analyses, HRI will investigate whether participants’ ratings of therapeutic alliance at discharge are related to ongoing recovery at later time points after discharge. We also plan to monitor therapeutic alliance during treatment so that steps can be taken to ensure that this alliance is as strong as possible, as a way to improve care and outcomes.

HRI Senior Scientist is Lead Editor of Influential Guide to Addiction Treatment

The volume and complexity of addiction research can be challenging for healthcare providers to navigate when determining best treatment practices for individuals with addictive disorders.

A new book, co-edited by HRI Senior Scientist and Peter Boris Chair in Addiction Research at McMaster University, James MacKillop, will help treatment professionals arrive at solutions more quickly.

Book cover - Integrating Psychological and Pharmacological Treatments for Addictive Disorders

The book covers a comprehensive range of addictive disorders, including alcohol, tobacco, opioid, stimulant and cannabis addiction, as well as gambling disorder, dual diagnosis, and co-morbid psychopathology.

Preliminary reviews from the medical community have praised the book as an invaluable resource for a range of professionals, from early-career practitioners to seasoned experts. Medical experts anticipate that Integrating Psychological and Pharmacological Treatments for Addictive Disorders will advance addiction treatment and empower primary care physicians to better support patients suffering from alcohol and drug addiction.

Dr. MacKillop is the lead editor of the volume, which features chapters authored by leading experts from McMaster, Harvard Medical School, Stanford University, Brown University, University of Cambridge, University of Chicago, University of Toronto and UCLA, among others.

Integrating Psychological and Pharmacological Treatments for Addictive Disorders will be available July 4th and can be pre-ordered online from Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.