STAGE 4. Selecting the theoretical approach

What steps should be completed?

Step 2: Revise the objectives of the intervention in light of the implications of the theoretical approach adopted


You will probably now understand the behaviours, and the environments where these occur, that you want to change with the intervention. You may try to use the intervention to achieve change on the individual level (i.e., in the individual, between people or within the organisation), in the person’s most immediate environment (or even the community’s), and/or in the social or physical context where the population lives.

You now have an initial guideline to find the most appropriate combination of approaches. As discussed previously, it is almost impossible for a single conceptual framework to respond to complex problems such as drug dependence. Therefore, incorporating several theoretical approaches when planning your intervention will be more useful, as it offers a logical explanation that is consistent with your observations. Selecting different approaches will bring you closer to a conceptual framework that takes into account the different factors affecting target population behaviour.

The specific objectives of the programme should refer to the key factors in the theoretical model(s) selected, as these should clearly identify which aspects should be modified to achieve the ultimate goal, and why. Then review your objectives and check that they are consistent with your model (approach) and that you have not forgotten any substantial factors to be modified.

One Step@a Time suggests that you consider the following criteria to help you find the benefits of theoretical models when formulating objectives.

  • What and why? Review the extent to which the different theoretical models (approaches) explain what problems occur and why they occur in the intervention’s target population. Review approaches that explain the phenomenon of drug dependence that you have detected in your area. This will give you clues about how to change this problem.
  • How? Check whether the personal or contextual factors you want to modify with the intervention are the most appropriate to change behaviour in the population in relation to drug dependence. To do this, you can review the practical tools in the theoretical models (approaches) and check whether the appropriate factors will work in your intervention or, if not, whether it is advisable to introduce other determinants to achieve the desired changes.

You can then review the methods offered by the different theoretical models (approaches) to achieve the changes you are looking for. Although this information will be most useful when planning activities (Stage 5), in this step you can anticipate the approaches that offer the most appropriate methods to achieve those changes. It will therefore be easier to plan intervention strategies in the next stage of the process.