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Couples Therapy Benefits Women with Alcoholism

Posted in Alcoholism Treatment

New research shows that women struggling with alcohol addiction may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – specifically CBT delivered in the form of couples therapy. CBT is based on the idea that thoughts precede feelings. CBT challenges these individuals to examine their negative thought processes in an effort to help them shape a more healthy perception of themselves. Understanding the role that destructive thought processes play in addiction helps aid in the recovery process.

The study was conducted by researchers Barbara McCrady and Elizabeth Epstein. McCrady is the director of the University of New Mexico’s Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addictions, and Epstein is an associate research professor at Rutgers’ Center of Alcohol Studies. The results of their study were published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

They studied 102 women with alcohol addictions over the course of six months. Part of the prerequisite of being considered for the survey was that the women had to be married or in a committed relationship, and their male partners had to agree to participate in therapy, too. Twenty sessions of individual therapy were administered to fifty percent of the women, while the other half participated in 20 sessions of couples therapy with their significant others. Both groups were followed for a period of one year after the study concluded.

While both groups showed improvement, women undergoing couples therapy fared better than those receiving individual treatment. The women completing couples therapy reported fewer episodes of heavy drinking, which consisted of more than three drinks per day. Couples therapy also yielded stronger results for those women struggling with depression in addition to their alcohol dependency.

It appears that women in couples therapy progress better because they have the additional support of their partners, and their partners benefit by better understanding the disease and how they can help. Women suffering from alcoholism are more likely to have problems in their marriage as well as other relationships because they have either cut themselves off or have been cut off from friends or family as a result of their addiction. They are left to cope with the disease alone, which doesn’t often end well.






The study suggests that the social context within which the addict faces treatment impacts how successful the treatment is. Women especially fare better when facing their demons with the support of someone else. However, not every woman is married or has a partner. The study has spawned an interest in further research on the subject. A new study comparing individual and couples therapy is being conducted and women need not be married or have a partner to participate.