Technology to Assess and Interventions to Avoid and Reduce Addictive Behaviors

Presented by: Robert Leeman, Ph.D. is Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Sciences in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Clark University, followed by an M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. After his Ph.D., Dr. Leeman spent a decade at Yale, first as a post-doctoral fellow, then as faculty, followed by seven years at the University of Florida where he was Associate Professor and Mary Lane Endowed Professor in the Department of Health Education and Behavior, Associate Director of the Southern HIV and Alcohol Research Consortium (SHARC) and co-director of a T32 training program in alcohol and HIV. His research interests are addictive behaviors, sexual health behavior and difficulties with self-control (e.g., impulsivity). Dr. Leeman tests novel interventions and attempts to learn more about risk factors for these behaviors, particularly among adolescents and young adults. Dr. Leeman has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and has been funded by NIH continuously since 2010. He has served in leadership roles locally, in national and international professional societies including the American Psychological Association (APA), the Research Society on Alcoholism and the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. Dr. Leeman is a fellow of the APA.


In this presentation, Dr. Leeman will discuss ways in which technology, particularly smartphone-related technology, can be used to benefit addiction assessment and intervention. Advantages to the use of technology include the ability to assess and deliver intervention material in the moment. Assessment in the moment can reduce recall bias and facilitate objective assessment to complement self-reports. With the help of technology, intervention material can be provided when and where people need it, including when they are attempting to avoid or limit their substance use. Much more research must be done to leverage the potential of technology. Therefore, we will also discuss several important principles in this research including keeping instructions to participants as simple and engaging as possible, involving members of the community in the development and/or evaluation of technology-based tools, being mindful of equity issues and the importance of assessing the user’s experience, including both acceptability (i.e., perceived value of the technology) and usability (i.e., ease of use), preferably using quantitative and qualitative methods. Dr. Leeman will use examples from his own and others’ research to illustrate these points.


Examine ways in which technology-based tools can benefit assessment of addictive behaviors

Examine ways in which technology-based tools can benefit intervention to help users avoid or reduce addictive behaviors

Discuss important principles when conducting research on technology-based tools

Define and detail ways to assess the acceptability and usability of technology-based tools.