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Partner’s Criticism Linked to Alcoholic Relapse

A new study published in Behavior Therapy apparently confirms that Al-Anon’s purpose of offering “understanding and encouragement” to those with drinking problems is best approach family members can take in dealing with the situation.

The study, conducted by William Fals-Stewart of the State University of New York at Buffalo, found that men recovering from substance abuse are less successful if they believe their spouse or partner is critical of them, rather than supportive.

The study found that of 106 married men studied, those who reported greater criticism from their partners were more likely to have relapsed, regardless of the severity of their drug problem, age or race.

Al-Anon is a support groups for those who are affected by someone else’s drinking. In the “preamble” which is read at most Al-Anon meetings, it says:

  • Al-Anon has but one purpose to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic.

“Compared to treatments for substance abuse that do not involve spouses, individuals who get couples treatment have much better outcomes — less drug use, fewer arrests, greater likelihood to remain abstinent from drugs,” Fals-Stewart told Reuters.

Other findings of the study include:

  • Of the 106 men in the study, half had relapsed after a year of treatment.
  • Most of the men perceived their partner to be moderately critical of them, with only 2 percent saying they were not critical at all, and 29 percent saying they were “very critical.”
  • Older men were more likely to perceive criticism, as were those involved in more distressed relationships.
  • The study noted the men’s perceived criticism, rather than how much and how often their partners actually criticized them.

Fals-Stewart said relapses themselves may increase criticism from a spouse, who may be especially disappointed by the failure of treatment.

Related Reading:

Family
Codependency For Dummies
How Can I Help My Alcoholic Husband?
Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for Addictive Behaviors: A Clinician's Guide