Elizabeth Epstein – Cognitive Behavioral Treatments for Alcohol Dependent Women

Posted on February 20, 2017 By

(music playing) Elizabeth Epstein: Since 1989, I’ve pretty much been focusing on developing what we call cognitive behavioral treatments for alcohol use disorders. My colleague, Barbara McCrady and I have been working on developing cognitive behavioral treatments specifically for alcohol dependent women. Research shows that women do respond well to treatment, but we don’t really have any specific treatments that are geared for women. Most of the research done over the years has been on men for various reasons, and so there are very few studies with only female samples and the studies that do involve females generally haven’t looked at female vs. male treatment outcome. What we’ve been doing is focusing exclusively on alcohol dependent females. These women have fairly severe alcohol problems, and they come to us through community outreach, and we provide treatment for them for free, and in turn they’re involved with our research assessments.

We first did a study looking at couple’s therapy for females with an alcohol dependence problem. What we found is that the women who were able and willing to be involved with their spouse in therapy did well. Now we’re about to start a study on women. We don’t require that their spouse be involved at all, we don’t require that they have a spouse this time. What we’re trying to do is to take the notion of social support as being especially helpful for women. in terms of getting their life back on track, and learning not to drink, and incorporating that into treatment in a way that doesn’t involve having a spouse or not. What we’re doing is we’re taking our individual cognitive behavioral therapy that we’ve written and adapted specifically for women, and we’re going to compare that with group therapy format of the same treatment.

I find treating women especially gratifying, because when a women is not functioning, the whole family really does suffer. When the women stop drinking, I can see how the family sort of snaps back together, and I feel in some way that I’m giving the children their mother back. One of the things I like best about doing research actually, and is really fun to do in our University setting, is that we have these great students around, and we involve both undergraduates and graduate students in our research. We’re lucky to have these undergraduates, we’ve had many, many undergraduates pass through here in the last 20 years.

Several of them are now colleagues. That’s really gratifying. It helps us a lot. I don’t think we could even run our research without the students, and obviously the students benefit, they learn a lot, they go on for great careers, and then the doctoral students, like I’ve mentioned, are really integral. I don’t think we could run our research without them either, and they make it interesting, they make it fun, they’re smart, they keep us on our toes, and they make our research much easier to do, much more fun, and actually doable. (music playing).

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