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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1999 Aug;25(3):543-59.

Volunteer assistance in the treatment of chronic alcoholism.

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Nova Scotia Community College, Sydney, Canada.


Chronic alcoholics often have great difficulty in adjusting their lifestyle to accommodate the goals agreed upon in treatment. A 16-week behavioral self-management program, which emphasized creating lifestyle changes in the community, was offered to 193 clients. To assist in the process of treatment delivery, half of the clients were offered the support of trained community volunteers during the treatment program. To give volunteers a time period in which to to meet and start working with their clients, only those clients who completed at least the first 4 weeks of the 16-week program (N = 106) were included in the evaluation. Independent follow-up was conducted over a 12-month period. A significant reduction in alcohol consumption was found for clients of both the volunteer-support (VS; N = 52) and the office-based (OB; N = 54) groups; this reduction was maintained over the 12 months of review, with no major differences found between groups. Volunteers rated high on particular characteristics assisted the client more effectively during treatment than those rated low. The variability in hours spent between volunteer-client pairs appeared to mask any main effects, and also the length of the contact period with the volunteer was too short. It is recommended that the use of volunteers be evaluated further by extending the client contact time into the follow-up period.

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