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J Consult Clin Psychol. 1998 Oct;66(5):744-52.

Expressed emotion and relapse in alcoholic patients.

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  • 1Harvard Families and Addiction Program, Harvard Medical School Psychiatry Department, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Brockton, Massachusetts 02301, USA.


Although family members' expressed emotion (EE) predicts patients' elevated relapse rates in schizophrenia and mood disorders, little is known about the relationship between EE and relapse in alcoholism. For 86 alcoholic patients (78 men, 8 women), the association between the spouse's EE and the alcoholic patient's subsequent relapse status in the 12 months after the couple began an outpatient behavioral marital therapy (BMT) program for alcoholism was examined. Alcoholic patients with high EE spouses, when compared with their counterparts with low EE spouses, were more likely to relapse, had a shorter time to relapse, and drank on a greater percentage of days in the 12 months after starting BMT. EE continued to be associated with relapse after patients' age, education, and alcohol problem severity were taken into account. Greater use of Antabuse and more sessions of BMT were associated with reduced relapse for alcoholic patients with high EE spouses.

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