Alcohol dependency is increasing across the globe. The physical consequences of problem drinking are well known. And the relational and psychological damage that alcohol addiction causes are those that affect entire families. But despite having this information, many people with unhealthy drinking behaviors continue to overindulge in alcohol. Changing this type of behavior is a task that must be approached on multiple levels. First, people must acknowledge that they need to make a change. Second, they must have the motivation and be willing to change their destructive behavior. The transtheoretical model of intentional behavior change (TTM) recognizes that this type of change occurs through phases: precontemplation, decision, and action. People must first think about making a change, decide to change, and then actually change their behaviors related to alcohol.
One of the biggest obstacles to the TTM with respect to alcohol is that many individuals with problem drinking behaviors do not see their behaviors as a problem. Fear of stigma and shame related to addictive behaviors often prevent people from passing from the precontemplation mode into the decision mode. To get a better idea of how the key elements of TTM work to create change in alcohol-dependent individuals, Sophie Baumann of the Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at the University Medicine Greifswald in Germany recently led a study that used three specific measures from the TTM to gauge motivation for change in 427 people with alcohol misuse.
Baumann discovered that the three measures were poor indicators of individuals with alcohol misuse issues. Many of the people surveyed found it difficult to accurately answer the questions based on usage. For instance, risky use and low use were subjective, as the amount of alcohol that is seen as accepted varies based on age and gender. Additionally, many of the respondents were hesitant to confess to having consumed more than the accepted amounts for fear of being labeled a problem drinker. The results of this study show that the TTM and other measures used to assess alcohol behavior and motivation might better serve those in need if they were designed to more clearly isolate behavior and removed any threat of stigma. Baumann added, “Such measures could also improve the acceptability of interventions among proactively recruited individuals who are with unhealthy alcohol use primarily unmotivated to change.”
Baumann, S., Gaertner, B., Schnuerer, I., Bischof, G., John, U., Freyer-Adam, J. (2012). How well do TTM measures work among a sample of individuals with unhealthy alcohol use that is characterized by low readiness to change? Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029368
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