Couples Therapy Good Option For Female Alcoholics

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Cognitive behavioral therapy delivered as couples therapy works best for alcohol-dependent women, a new study finds.

The Study

A recent paper by Barbara McCrady and Elizabeth Epstein, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, examined the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a treatment for women dependent on alcohol. They also looked at whether CBT was more effective when delivered as couples therapy rather than individual therapy.

The researchers recruited 102 women who were alcohol dependent, married or in a committed relationship with a man for at least 6 months, and whose partners were willing to participate in couples therapy. The women were divided into two groups, each group receiving 20 outpatient session of CBT over the course of six months--either couples therapy or individual therapy.

The Findings

  • Both couples and individual therapy were effective, but women who received couples therapy better maintained the gains they made.
  • Couples therapy worked better for women suffering from depression as well as alcohol dependence.

Why Is This Important?

Alcohol dependence is a problem among women, with 4-8% of women under age 44 suffering from alcohol dependence. Despite this, there has been little research on treatment methods designed specifically for women alcoholics. Women are less likely to seek treatment for alcoholism than men are, and as many as 65% of alcohol-dependent women have an additional psychiatric disorder--facts which suggest they could benefit from targeted therapy. For alcoholic women with supportive partners, couples therapy may be a new approach to consider.

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