Exploration of Clinician Adherence and Competency as Predictors of Treatment Outcomes in a School-Based Homework and Organization Intervention for Students with ADHD

Abstract

Addressing the complex homework and organization problems faced by students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) must be balanced with ensuring that interventions are feasible to implement. The Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS) intervention was developed to be a brief intervention implemented in typical school settings with minimal training/support required for school clinicians. Given this, it is critical to explore how clinician adherence and competency relate to student outcomes. Participants included 107 adolescents with ADHD (Mage = 11.95, SD = 1.04; 69% male; 57% on ADHD medication) who participated in the HOPS intervention. Path analyses examined the relation between clinician adherence (fidelity to session content, session length) and competency (e.g., empathic, enthusiastic, calm, collaborative), controlling for baseline scores of the outcome measure and other relevant therapeutic processes (parent and adolescent engagement, working alliance). Clinician fidelity and competency were inversely related, such that highly competent clinicians had lower fidelity to the HOPS content. Importantly, clinician competency was a significant predictor of fewer parent-reported adolescent organizational problems and a higher percentage of assignments turned in post-HOPS, whereas clinician fidelity was unrelated to treatment outcomes. Session length was inversely related to parent-reported homework performance, such that longer session length was associated with worse homework outcomes. Findings suggest that school clinician competency is an important factor in predicting positive treatment outcomes for youth who participate in school-based homework and organization interventions. Training to help school clinicians improve their competency including being more empathetic, calm, motivating, and collaborative with students, and to help them flexibly implement school-based interventions is warranted.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Because all the clinicians were newly graduated, White female school counselors, there was not enough clinician diversity in demographic factors to explore these as covariates.

  2. 2.

    In the larger randomized controlled trial, 113 families were randomized to receive HOPS and 111 started the intervention. Four students did not have recordings for any of their sessions due to one of the school clinicians losing a portion of their audio recordings.

  3. 3.

    The HOPS fidelity checklists contain a core set of items that assess behaviors that providers implement every session (e.g., completion of checklists, administering points). When new skills were taught and practiced, the checklists were expanded to include additional items. In coding and reviewing the items that were present across all sessions, it quickly became clear that the core set of assessment items consistently happened every session, resulting in little variability in these items. This is not surprising, as HOPS was designed to be highly feasible for providers to implement with minimal training. Therefore, to reduce coder burden, we focused on the sessions that also included teaching and practice of new skills, which captures both the core assessment items (e.g., checklist completion) and the additional items focused on teaching and practicing new skills. Doing so also allowed us to assess fidelity to delivery pace – that is, whether skills were implemented on the timeline specified in the manual.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the families, teachers, graduate students, project coordinators, and school clinicians who made this research possible.

Funding

This study was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, through Grant R305A130011 to Virginia Commonwealth University and the senior author. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the US Department of Education.

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Breaux, R., Willis, K.D., Eadeh, HM. et al. Exploration of Clinician Adherence and Competency as Predictors of Treatment Outcomes in a School-Based Homework and Organization Intervention for Students with ADHD. School Mental Health (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-021-09430-0

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Keywords

  • School mental health
  • ADHD
  • Adolescents
  • Engagement
  • Fidelity