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Human Relations Area Files has announced the conclusions
reached through a twelve-month review of 134 studies bearing
on the effectiveness of Alcoholics A n o n y m o u s (A.A.)
and counseling in the treatment of alcoholism. The effectiveness
of these two approaches is a key issue, as more than 50
per cent of the 2 million people treated for alcoholism
in the United States each year are involved in one or both
of these types of programs.
key conclusions about Alcoholics Anonymous are:
is no scientific evidence that Alcoholics Anonymous is more
effective than other approaches used in alcoholism treatment.
What evidence does exist suggests that A.A. is about as
effective as most other approaches.
majority of people who turn to A.A. for help with their
abusive drinking drop out of the program before they become
meaningfully involved in it. In this regard, A.A. is much
like other programs, which also suffer from high dropout
Anonymous seems to be most effective when used for follow-up
care by persons who have recently completed an inpatient
While Alcoholics Anonymous attracts a wide range of people
from all walks of life, it is clear that A.A. works for
only a minority of alcoholics. Unfortunately, research to
date has not yet identified the specific social and psychological
characteristics which distinguish those people most likely
to benefit from involvement in A.A.
key conclusion about Al-Anon (for relatives/friends of alcoholics)
of Al-Anon who are married to men with drinking problems
are better able to cope than nonmembers with their husbands’
abusive drinking and related problems.
key conclusions about counseling are:
hard scientific evidence is lacking, the available evidence
suggests that counseling is often an effective component
of the alcoholism treatment program.
alcoholics are not more effective counselors than nonalcoholics.
with extensive work or professional experience are not necessarily
more effective than those with limited experience.
in a formal counselor training program of ten increases
a counselor’s knowledge about alcoholism and sharpens
his or her therapeutic skills.
review project was directed by David Levinson and resulted
in the publication of A Guide to Alcoholism Treatment Research:
Volume III. Alcoholics Anonymous and Counseling.
Society, July/August 1984)