Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Douglas Polcin, EdD, MS

Douglas L. Polcin, EdD, MFT, is a Project Director at the Public Health Institute. His research and teaching interests include sober living houses, peer helping, motivational interviewing, HIV risk behaviors, criminal justice mandated treatment, and the roles of coercion and confrontation in treatment entry and outcome.

Dr. Polcin has been an adjunct faculty member at John F. Kennedy University-Extension and UC Berkeley-Extension and has taught a variety of courses on alcohol and drug abuse. He has been a principal investigator on multiple studies funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), including seven grants studying sober living houses and three studying motivational interviewing interventions. In September of 2017 he was awarded a 5-year grant by NIDA to study social environment and neighborhood influences on outcomes of persons living in sober living residences.

Before joining PHI, Dr. Polcin was a Research Psychologist at San Francisco's Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, where he served as principal investigator of an NIAAA funded grant assessing “Coercion to Enter Treatment from Probation Officers.” Dr. Polcin is a licensed MFT and since 1979 he has worked as a clinician, supervisor and administrator in a variety of substance abuse and mental health treatment programs.

Dr. Polcin completed a doctorate in counseling psychology at Northeastern University and a master's in clinical psychology at San Francisco State University. His clinical training and professional work has included positions in the Cambridge Hospital Department of Psychiatry in Massachusetts and San Francisco General Hospital, University of California, San Francisco.

Community Impact on Adoption of Sober Living Houses

This study combined quantitative and qualitative methodologies to understand community influences on the adoption of the promising innovation of sober living houses. Particular focus was on one community where it was successfully established. Translating promising interventions into community services requires demonstrating positive outcomes and consideration of the knowledge, attitudes and perceived barriers for various stakeholders.

Evidence Based Sober Living Houses: A Multi-level Analysis

The essential characteristics of sober living houses (SLHs) include provision of an alcohol and drug free living environment and social support for abstinence. Our ongoing and previous studies have shown that individuals residing in SLHs experience a variety of benefits, including improvements in health, psychiatric symptoms, employment, and legal problems. This new study will examine the relative influences of neighborhood characteristics, social environment within the houses, and physical characteristics of houses on 12-month outcomes.

Intensive Motivational Interviewing for Methamphetamine Dependence

This study tests the efficacy of a promising nine-session model of motivational interviewing (MI) for methamphetamine dependence. Methamphetamine use is rapidly increasing and in some areas, such as the Western U.S., is reaching epidemic proportions. Prior studies found higher doses of MI were associated with better outcomes, and may be a useful approach for this population.

Interaction of Mental Health and Social Support on Drug Relapse in Recovery Homes

The study's findings will result in immediate, practical implications for over 500 sober living houses (SLHs) in California and 1,200 Oxford Houses in the U.S. The study will: track drug-dependent individuals' psychiatric symptoms; identify factors that moderate the influence of psychiatric symptoms; identify how trajectories of mental health symptoms among methamphetamine-dependent individuals differ from those dependent on other substances; and examine mental health symptoms of drug-dependent persons in the community rather than in formal treatment.

Moderators of Motivation to Maintain Sobriety Over 18 Months

This project is studying how motivation to maintain sobriety is associated with abstinence and reduced substance use over 18 months among individuals entering sober living recovery homes. Findings will add substantitvely to our knowledge about how motivation impacts the recovery process over time in the community.

Randomized Trial of Intensive MI to Improve Drinking Among Women

This study aims to improve drinking outcomes among women using a recently developed intensive model of motivational interviewing (IMI).  Unlike standard motivational interviewing (MI), which typically consists of 1–2 sessions at the beginning of treatment, IMI consists of 9 sessions delivered concurrently with standard outpatient treatment.


Reducing Offenders' HIV Risk: MI Enhanced Case Management with Drug-Free Housing

HIV risk among criminal justice offenders is high. Rates of infection are up to 10 times higher than the general population. Drug-free housing will be accessed through the Sober Living Network (SLN). Our recent study of SLHs showed criminal justice offenders fared worse than other residents and HIV issues were not assessed. Expanding on our current HIV service grants, we will use motivational interviewing (MI) case management to address HIV risk and the mix of factors that increase risk.

When Does Pressure Facilitate Help Seeking? 25-Year Trends and Correlates

This study uses data from the National Alcohol Survey collected at six different points over a 25-year period to describe the patterns of pressure that drinkers received from family, friends, physicians and the workplace to "drink less or act differently," and examines how such pressure was related to seeking and not seeking help.


With more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies, PHI’s highly regarded epidemiological research on substance abuse identifies gaps in knowledge an...

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Research - Quantitative

To make an effective impact on community health, public health practices, programs and policies must be informed by accurate research and analysis....

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