Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying, “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” But according to a recent study led by Paul R. Stasiewicz of the Research Institute on Addictions at University at Buffalo of the State University of New York, inspiration may be the impetus for change in people seeking treatment for alcohol misuse. Changing behavior related to alcohol use is the key to overcoming dependency. Research suggests that long before a person ever enters treatment for alcohol they have already begun the process of change. But how does this affect treatment and does the degree of pretreatment change affect treatment outcome?
To answer these questions, Stasiewicz assessed 45 individuals seeking outpatient treatment for alcohol dependency. The participants were assessed via telephone two weeks prior to treatment, at baseline, from baseline to first session, and at treatment conclusion. The results were based on days of abstinence and reductions in daily alcohol consumption at the pretreatment assessments. Stasiewicz found that the participants who had the most dramatic decreases in drinking prior to treatment maintained those changes throughout treatment and had higher levels of overall abstinence and less daily drinking compared to those with less pre-treatment change, when measured three months post-treatment.
Gradual changers, those who had minimal changes in drinking behaviors, had slower treatment gains throughout and had poorer abstinence outcomes post-treatment. These results contradict existing research that implies that the most significant changes in drinking behaviors occur during treatment. Instead, these findings demonstrate that the impetus or inspiration for change occurs after the decision to enter treatment occurs, but well before treatment begins. Also, making that inspired decision appears to provide lasting benefits. Stasiewicz believes that these findings have positive clinical and research implications that could benefit both rapid and gradual changers. He added, “A more detailed investigation may yield insights that could lead to more efficient treatment delivery and suggest avenues for adapting treatment based on a person’s pretreatment change status.”
Stasiewicz, P. R., Schlauch, R. C., Bradizza, C. M., Bole, C. W., and Coffey, S. F. (2012). Pretreatment changes in drinking: Relationship to treatment outcomes. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031368
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