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Addict Behav. 1998 May-Jun;23(3):419-25.

Sexual adjustment of male alcoholics: changes from before to after receiving alcoholism counseling with and without marital therapy.

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Harvard Medical School Psychiatry Department, VA Medical Center, Brockton, MA 02401, USA.


Married male alcoholics (N = 36), who had recently begun individual outpatient alcoholism counseling, were randomly assigned to a no-marital-treatment control group or to 10 weekly sessions of either a behavioral marital therapy (BMT) or an interactional couples therapy group. Impotence decreased from before to after counseling irrespective of whether the alcoholic patients received additional marital therapy. Husbands who received BMT reported increased frequency of wives' orgasm during intercourse and greater increases in satisfaction with the privacy and context of their sexual activities than did couples in the other two treatment groups. These findings support a biopsychosocial formulation of alcoholics' sexual problems that implicates the physical effects of acute and chronic alcohol intake as most relevant to the elevated rates of impotence and marital conflict as a major contributing factor to most sexual problems of alcoholics. The improvement observed in sexual adjustment was rather limited. Despite the improvements in impotence, the alcoholics still experienced over twice the rate of impotence reported by demographically similar nonalcoholics. In terms of sexual satisfaction, BMT produced only modest gains as viewed by husbands and no gains from the wives' perspective. Perhaps sexual adjustment is one of the last areas of the alcoholic's marriage to improve after treatment. The limited time frame of the present study may have precluded observing further improvements in sexual adjustment that would emerge later after a longer period of recovery.

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