Twelve Steps help clients who have social support for drinking

This study, part of Project MATCH, clearly demonstrates the advantage of Twelve Step Facilitation for clients with a particular attribute: social support for drinking.

To rate clients on this attribute, researchers looked for specific information, such as the:

  • Number of people in the client’s social network.
  • Amount of contact that the client had with key people in this network.
  • Number of heavy drinkers in the network.
  • Number of people who abstained from drinking and the number of recovering alcoholics in the network.

In short, clients with high support for drinking had close friends and family members who drank at higher levels and offered lower levels of support for abstinence.

Longabaugh and his coauthors predicted that Twelve Step Facilitation Therapy would lead to better treatment outcomes for these clients. To test this hypothesis, researchers measured the number of days that clients abstained from alcohol during a three-month period–37 to 39 months after treatment.

Researchers also measured client involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous during and after treatment.

Results confirmed the prediction: Clients with high network support for drinking who took part in Twelve Step Facilitation had 83 percent abstinent days; those who received Motivational Enhancement Therapy had 66 percent.

What’s more, even the clients who received Motivational Enhancement Therapy had more abstinent days if they attended AA after treatment. For clients with low network support for drinking, there was no significant difference between Twelve Step Facilitation and Motivational Enhancement Therapy.

Researchers drew two primary conclusions from this study:

  • Twelve Step Facilitation ‘may be the treatment of choice’ for alcoholics with networks that support drinking. And,
  • alcoholics with such networks should consider joining AA – regardless of the type of treatment they receive.

‘Our study has clear clinical significance,’ says Longabaugh. ‘It tells the clinician that once we know the client’s support for drinking, we know how important the AA component can be to his or her recovery.’

Longabaugh, R., Wirtz, P.W., Zweben, A, & Stout, R.L. (1998). Network support for drinking, Alcoholics Anonymous and long-term matching effects. Addiction, 93, 9. Doug Toft. 2004 Hazelden Foundation


A Young Person’s Guide To The Twelve Steps A Clinical Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment


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