Alcohol Counseling Helps Domestic Abusers Recover
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For heavy drinkers in treatment for abusing their partners, therapy targeting alcohol abuse could help improve violent behavior, according to a new study. Alcohol can impair judgement and lower inhibitions which in turn can lead to aggressive behavior, says study lead Gregory Stuart of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "One theory is that alcohol can narrow focus to negative aspects of the environment, and is linked to impulsivity," he says. But even though alcohol is a factor in many domestic disputes, arrested perpetrators are often referred by the court to "batterer" programs—which rarely address drinking. For the study, researchers recruited 252 men who had been arrested in Rhode Island for domestic violence and also reported binge drinking (five or more drinks per session at least once a month). They found that the participants who received the extra session of alcohol counseling in addition to domestic violence therapy showed greater short-term improvement in both their drinking and their violent behavior. However, after a year, the two groups demonstrated similar amounts of improvement in aggressive behavior. Stuart says the alcohol abuse therapy helped give men a "jump start" on reducing their violent behavior sooner into treatment. He hopes the study results will lead to improvements in batterer programs, by incorporating treatment for substance abuse. He says: "The goal is to gently lead them to the conclusion that potentially stopping the use of alcohol and drugs is a good idea.”