A Naturalistic Study of the Associations Between Changes in Alcohol Problems, Spiritual Functioning, and Psychiatric Symptoms

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The study evaluated how spiritual and religious functioning (SRF), alcohol-related problems, and psychiatric symptoms change over the course of treatment and follow-up. Problem drinkers (n = 55, including 39 males and 16 females) in outpatient treatment were administered questionnaires at pretreatment, posttreatment, and follow up, which assessed two aspects of SRF (religious well-being and existential well-being), two aspects of alcohol misuse (severity and consequences), and two aspects of psychiatric symptoms (depression and anxiety). Significant improvements in SRF, psychiatric symptoms and alcohol misuse were observed from pretreatment to follow-up. Although SRF scores were significantly correlated with psychiatric symptoms at all three time points, improvement in the former did not predict improvement in the latter. When measured at the same time points, SRF scores were not correlated with the measures of alcohol misuse. However, improvement in SRF (specifically in existential well-being) over the course of treatment was predictive of improvement in the alcohol misuse measures at follow-up. These results suggest that the association between SRF, emotional problems, and alcohol misuse is complex. They further suggest that patients who improve spiritual functioning over the course of treatment are more likely to experience improvement in drinking behavior and alcohol-related problems after treatment has ended.

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