Online Support Can Help Spouses of Alcoholics

Women married to men with alcohol abuse problems can face a host of barriers that prevent them from obtaining necessary support.

A new program, developed by researchers at the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), helps these women receive Internet-based, interactive support program.

Approximately 7.7 million U.S. adults are currently married to or living with a partner with an alcohol use disorder. The burden of living with an alcoholic partner can cause considerable psychological distress, said Robert G. Rychtarik, Ph.D., senior research scientist at RIA. But many spouses do not or cannot seek help.

“Specialized professional help for spouses of alcoholics is not widely available and insurance coverage can be limited,” Rychtarik says.

“Fear of retribution, family turmoil, stigmatization, and financial, time and geographical constraints also can be barriers.”

Researchers developed a self-paced, Internet-administered coping skills training program to determine if it could be an effective way to help reduce distress in this frequently underserved population.

In a new study, nearly 100 women living with an alcoholic partner tested the program, which included narrated instruction, animated presentations, and video dramatizations of the most effective ways to deal with problems arising from a partner’s drinking.

Certified counselors (“coaches”) were available to chat via computer or telephone.

“The program’s goals are to help women focus on their own needs, reduce stress and talk to their partners in a more effective way,” Rychtarik said.

“The majority of the participants showed significantly higher levels of coping skills and experienced decreased depression and anger compared to those who didn’t take part in the program.”

Although the program is not yet available to the public, RIA researchers are seeking additional funding to evaluate it on a larger scale.

One objective of future research is to determine the best method to deliver the program. Investigators hope to determine if the program is best provided through social service agencies, treatment programs or health care providers, or as a standalone for women to access themselves.

Source: University of Buffalo