Adaptive functioning by the concerned spouse or intimate partner (CS) of an individual with an alcohol use disorder can be critical to the recovery of the drinking individual. Al-Anon Family Groups, a 12-step group for loved ones of drinking individuals, is the most widely used form of help for CSs in the USA. In parallel, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), also a 12-step support group, is the most widely-sought source of help for alcohol problems and is an effective and cost-effective resource to promote and sustain abstinence among drinking individuals. In contrast to AA, empirical knowledge is lacking about key aspects of Al-Anon, despite its widespread use. Even though early Al-Anon attendance may be the period during which the most positive change occurs - in parallel to findings for drinking individuals themselves - this period has not been studied.
The Aims of this study are to (1) identify Al-Anon newcomers'reasons for initiating participation, their previous utilization of professional treatment, their life context and personal functioning, and expectations of participation;(2) identify newcomers'reasons for dropping out of or sustaining short-term Al-Anon participation, use of professional treatment during Al-Anon and after dropout, short-term changes in life context and personal functioning, and positive outcomes of short-term Al-Anon participation, (3) determine the member related, Al- Anon participation, and professional treatment characteristics that are associated with better outcomes (using Moos'conceptual framework);(4) examine therapeutic processes underlying the benefits of Al-Anon participation;and (5) examine associations of CSs'Al-Anon participation and outcomes with the drinking individual's AA participation and drinking outcomes. In Part 1, the study will collect survey data from a large, random sample of newcomers to Al-Anon (N=1,291). Subsequently, in Part 2, the study will follow 350 of the newcomers six months later. The longitudinal sample will consist of female spouses/intimate partners of drinking individuals;it will be stratified on whether or not the drinking individual is attending AA. Descriptive analyses will be conducted for Aims 1 and 2.
For Aims 3 -5, regression analyses (including logistic regression as appropriate) will be conducted to identify factors that are associated with the CSs'and the drinking individual's outcomes. The goal of this research program is to identify and implement better methods to facilitate participation in Al-Anon so that CSs will benefit on personal functioning and from professional treatment services that are costly and may not provide adequate long-term support. Al-Anon may also contribute to the recovery of people with alcohol use disorders. Al-Anon participation may indirectly promote recovery by promoting AA participation, and by contributing to better drinking outcomes independently of AA.

Public Health Relevance

PROJECT NARRATIVE: For every person with an alcohol problem, at least four other people are affected by his or her drinking. The well-being of the spouse or intimate partner of an alcoholic individual may be essential to the individual's recovery. The most common source of help for people concerned about another person's drinking is Al-Anon Family Groups. This proposed study will examine why people begin attending Al-Anon, what they hope to gain from Al-Anon, and how they benefit from the first six months of attendance. It will also examine how newcomers'Al-Anon participation might encourage the drinking individual to attend the support group of Alcoholics Anonymous and work toward abstinence. The results will be of interest to helpers of families and friends of substance abusing individuals in the community and self-help programs, as well as treatment providers, providing them with information that can be used to facilitate Al-Anon and AA utilization.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Health Services Research Review Subcommittee (AA)
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Chiapella, Page
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Palo Alto Institute for Research & Edu, Inc.
Palo Alto
United States
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Timko, Christine; Laudet, Alexandre; Moos, Rudolf H (2016) Al-Anon newcomers: benefits of continuing attendance for six months. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 42:441-9
Timko, Christine; Halvorson, Max; Kong, Calvin et al. (2015) Social processes explaining the benefits of Al-Anon participation. Psychol Addict Behav 29:856-63
Timko, Christine; Cronkite, Ruth; Laudet, Alexandre et al. (2014) Al-Anon family groups' newcomers and members: Concerns about the drinkers in their lives. Am J Addict 23:329-36
Timko, Christine; Laudet, Alexandre; Moos, Rudolf H (2014) Newcomers to Al-Anon family groups: Who stays and who drops out? Addict Behav 39:1042-9
Timko, Christine; Cronkite, Ruth; Kaskutas, Lee Ann et al. (2013) Al-Anon family groups: newcomers and members. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 74:965-76