The use and impact of self-monitoring on substance use outcomes: A descriptive systematic review

Julie C. Gass, Jennifer S. Funderburk, Robyn Shepardson, Jesse D. Kosiba, Lauren Rodriguez, Stephen A. Maisto

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Self-Monitoring (SM), the act of observing ones’ own behavior, has been used in substance use treatment because SM may bring conscious awareness to automatized substance use behaviors. Empirical findings regarding SM’s effectiveness are mixed. The aim of this study was to synthesize the literature for the efficacy of SM on substance use. Method: A literature search was conducted using MEDLINE/PubMed. Results: Out of 2,659 citations, 41 studies with 126 analyses were included. Among analyses from studies rated Moderate (n = 24) or Strong (n = 3) quality, SM was shown to have a helpful effect (e.g., reducing substance use) 29% of the time; to have no effect 63.0% of the time; and to be detrimental in 8.0% of analyses. SM’s helpful effects were associated with methodological characteristics including longer monitoring and Phone/IVR and EMA/Computer methodologies compared to Paper/Pencil. SM was more helpful in non-treatment-seekers (35.0% of analyses showed SM to be helpful compared to 25.0% of analyses with treatment-seekers). Conclusions: Results of this study suggest that SM, under certain circumstances, as the potential to be a low-cost, low-risk research and early intervention strategy for substance users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-526
Number of pages15
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Self-monitoring
  • assessment effects
  • low-intensity intervention
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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