Recruitment of participants into treatment outcome studies is an important and often challenging aspect of human research. Yet, there have been very few controlled trials that have examined methods of recruiting participants into clinical trials, particularly in populations that may be reluctant to pursue mental health intervention, such as athletes. In this study, 79 NCAA Division I, Club, and Intramural student-athletes volunteered to participate in a study to determine their interest in participating in one of two goal-oriented programs representing two arms in a clinical trial. These programs were aimed at reducing substance abuse and sexually transmitted infections, and improving mental health, relationships, and sport performance. The participants were randomly assigned to Standard Recruitment (SR) or Recruitment Engagement (RE). RE included a review of the aforementioned outcome study and implementation of strategies that were developed to motivate participants to engage in treatment. The SR condition involved a review of the aforementioned treatment outcome study only. After the recruitment interventions were implemented, participants were queried to report any negative consequences that may have occurred from their use of illicit drugs or alcohol. Participants who reported negative consequences were invited to participate in baseline assessment of the aforementioned outcome study. Results indicated that 11 (25.0%) of the participants in the RE condition provided their consent to participate, 9 (20.5%) of whom subsequently completed baseline assessment; only 2 (5.7%) of the SR participants provided their study consent and subsequently participated in baseline assessment for the clinical trial (p < .05). After the respective recruitment intervention was implemented, participants were administered psychometrically validated instruments to assess their overall psychiatric functioning and the extent to which their sport performance was negatively impacted by dysfunctional thoughts and stress. Participants in RE were more likely to report greater dysfunctional thoughts and stress interfering with their sport performance (and, to a lesser extent, greater psychiatric problems) than SR participants, suggesting RE may influence greater disclosure of problem behavior than SR, permitting the interviewers opportunities to empathize with the participants’ concerns. Results are discussed in light of their implications to treatment outcome research and clinical and counseling practice involving student-athletes.
The authors are with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NE.