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CBT, Emotional Coping Improves Care for Anxious Alcoholics

CBT, Emotional Coping Improves Care for Anxious AlcoholicsResearchers from Boston University have found that transdiagnostic cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was more effective in reducing heavy drinking in anxious alcoholics than progressive muscle relaxation therapy (PMR).

Researchers also discovered that the addition of medication to either CBT or PMR participants did not decrease their alcohol consumption.

The findings are published in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy.

For the study, participants were divided into four groups; one receiving the antidepressant venlaflaxine coupled with CBT, one receiving venlaflaxine with PMR, and the other groups receiving a placebo coupled with either CBT or PMR.

After 11 weeks the participants in the group receiving a placebo and CBT alone reported their heavy drinking had significantly decreased when compared to the other groups receiving treatment.

“It is vital to find better treatments, whether they are medication therapies or behavioral interventions,” said Domenic Ciraulo, M.D., principal investigator of the study.

“This study points to the importance of behavioral approaches to decrease heavy drinking through strategies to improve emotional regulation.”

According to the researchers, while antidepressant medications may help to control anxious feelings, the ability to acknowledge and respond to such intense feelings may be one reason that CBT is effective.

This may be why the addition of an antidepressant to CBT did not lead to improved outcomes.

“The goal of transdiagnostic CBT in this study was not to directly treat the specific anxiety symptoms of each anxiety disorder, but rather teach broad skills to cope with emotional issues that underlie a cluster of internalizing (mood and anxiety) disorders that often accompany alcoholism and may contribute to its onset and maintenance,” said David H. Barlow, Ph.D., a co-author of the study.

Source: Boston University

Stop drinking sign photo by shutterstock.

CBT, Emotional Coping Improves Care for Anxious Alcoholics

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). CBT, Emotional Coping Improves Care for Anxious Alcoholics. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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