The establishment of a therapeutic alliance between the patient and therapist is generally viewed as a central component of the behavior change process in the treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). However, the majority of research serving as the basis for this conclusion has been descriptive. At this juncture, a transformative, next-step awaits the field - specifically, the development and evaluation of a contemporaneous, session by session feedback and guidance system for enhancing the therapeutic alliance in the service of improving treatment process and, ultimately, outcomes. In the proposed study, the participants will be alcohol dependent patients entering outpatient AUD treatment. Each will participate in a structured, 12- week treatment regimen of weekly individual treatment sessions. After each session, patients will complete the short form of the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI), which measures patients'perceptions of the therapeutic alliance. Two treatment conditions will be evaluated. In the experimental condition, feedback and guidance regarding the patient's reports on the therapeutic alliance will be provided to the therapist following each treatment session attended (Feedback condition). The feedback specifically will entail descriptive information on the patient's perceptions of the alliance as well as techniques and strategies that could be used by the therapist in service of enhancing the alliance or maintaining already strong alliances. In the "usual treatment" condition, no feedback on the therapeutic alliance will be provided to the therapist (No Feedback condition). Comprehensive research assessments will be conducted with patients at baseline, end of treatment, and at 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-months post-treatment. The project's specific aims are three-fold.
The first aim i s to test the effects of providing feedback and guidance to therapists regarding patient perceptions of the therapeutic alliance on overall, patient-provided therapeutic alliance scores (averaged across treatment sessions attended during the 12-week treatment regimen).
The second aim i s to test the effects of providing feedback and guidance to therapists regarding patient perceptions of the therapeutic alliance on alcohol involvement (operationalized as percent days abstinent and drinks per drinking day) (a) during the treatment period and (b) during the 12-month follow-up period.
The third aim i s to test overall, patient-provided therapeutic alliance scores (averaged across treatment sessions attended during the 12-week treatment regimen) as a mediator of the proposed relationship between Feedback condition and alcohol involvement during the 12-month follow-up period. Positive results associated with providing therapists with feedback on patient perceptions of the therapeutic alliance would represent an important advance for the field. Furthermore, there would be direct transportability of the feedback technology being evaluated in this study to community settings.
The annual societal and personal consequences associated with alcohol misuse are profound. This study is intended to advance knowledge on strategies for enhancing the therapeutic alliance between the patient and therapist, which is anticipated to improve treatment outcomes.