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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Jun 1;95(3):230-6. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2008.01.010. Epub 2008 Mar 10.

The therapeutic alliance in medical-based interventions impacts outcome in treating alcohol dependence.

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  • 1Center for the Studies of Addiction, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 3900 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6178, USA. dundon_b@mail.trc.upenn.edu


This study examined the relationship of the therapeutic alliance and treatment outcomes for alcohol-dependent patients receiving naltrexone or placebo and one of three different types of clinical interventions, including two medical-based (non-specialty) treatments. This is a secondary analysis of a 24-week randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of 100mg/day of naltrexone or placebo for patients with DSM-IV alcohol dependence. Patients were also randomized to one of three interventions: (1) medication clinic only, (2) medication clinic plus BRENDA (an intervention promoting pharmacotherapy), or (3) medication clinic plus cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Early in treatment, patients and clinicians completed the working alliance inventory (WAI). Regression analyses were conducted to determine the predictive validity of the WAI on percent days abstinent and percent of sessions attended over the clinical trial. In the medication clinic only condition, the clinicians' WAI total score was marginally correlated to percent of visits attended (p=.057) but not percent days abstinent. In the medication clinic plus BRENDA condition, clinicians' WAI total score was positively correlated with percent days abstinent (p=.013) but not percent visits attended. No significant relationships were found between the WAI scores and either outcome measure in the CBT condition or for any of the patient rated assessments. To our knowledge, this is the first published report providing some support for the importance of the therapeutic alliance in medical interventions for alcohol dependence but only in the context of the clinicians' ratings. The absence of other effects underscores the need for further research.

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