Phone Therapy For Alcoholism Treatment Helps Soldiers Reduce Drinking, Seek Recovery
There’s no question that alcohol abuse is problematic for many persons in the military. Those who serve enter an already established culture of heavy drinking. Combine this with the continuous stress of being away from family, as well as exposure to traumatic situations, and you can see how binge drinking behavior could easily manifest.
In fact, experts estimate that in 2008, nearly half of active-duty military personnel in the U.S. (47%) were binge drinkers – a 35% increase from the previous decade.
And tragically, very few seek or receive help. Those who do not fear disciplinary action or stigma – for similar reasons as those in the military who suffer from mental illness. When someone in the military seeks treatment, it is reported on his or her medical and military records. As a result, not many get the help they need, and there is little research on effective treatment options in the military.
These are serious obstacles to receiving alcoholism treatment, which some researchers sought to remove. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that military participants using a telephone intervention showed a significant reduction in drinking, had lower rates of alcohol dependence, and were more likely to seek treatment.
The study included 242 active military members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, and were recruited through ads and info booths at military events.
All participants were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, and none were enrolled in any treatment programs.
In the study, participants were randomly selected for the treatment or control group. While the control group only received educational materials about substance abuse, the treatment group received an hour long personalized intervention session (using motivational interviewing) via telephone. Motivational interviewing is a goal-oriented approach to helping people make positive changes in their behavior.
Interviews were conducted to follow-up three and six months later. Interviews revealed a significant reduction in drinking rates (32 weekly drinks versus 14) and alcohol dependence rates fell from 83% to just 22%. Of note, alcohol dependence also dropped in the control group, from 83% to 35%.
And over time, participants began to seek further alcoholism treatment – at six months, almost 1/3 of the participants had done so. Researchers said that the intervention resulted in a more dramatic drinking reduction, but even the educational materials seem to encourage some to make a change or get help.
And one of the best things about the intervention was confidentiality. That is, participants could receive treatment without others finding out, and they could schedule calls at their convenience. Thus, barriers to treatment for military personnel were removed, allowing them to freely discuss their condition without fear of negative repercussions to their career.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology