A Randomized Trial of Female-Specific Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Alcohol Dependent Women

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This study compared Female-Specific Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (FS-CBT) to evidence-based, gender-neutral CBT (GN-CBT; Epstein & McCrady, 2009) for women with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Women (N = 99) with AUD, mean age 48, were randomly assigned to 12 outpatient manual-guided sessions of FS-CBT (n = 44) or GN-CBT (n = 55). Women were assessed at baseline and 3, 9 and 15 months after baseline for drinking and for specific issues common among women with AUD. A FS-CBT protocol was developed that was discriminable on treatment integrity ratings from GN-CBT. No treatment condition differences were found in treatment engagement, changes in drinking, alcohol-related coping, abstinence self-efficacy, motivation to change, or constructs directly targeted in FS-CBT (sociotropy, autonomy, depression, anxiety). Women in both conditions were highly engaged and satisfied with treatment, and reported significant reductions in drinking and changes in desired directions for all other variables except social support for abstinence. In the year following treatment, women in the FS-CBT but not in the CBT condition reported an increase in percentage of abstainers in their social networks (0.69% per month, SE = 0.21, p = .002). The value and appeal of female-specific programming in AUD treatment has been established in the wider literature (Epstein & Menges, 2013), and the current study provides support for the use of the Female-Specific Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (FS-CBT) manual as an option that may yield outcomes similar to standard gender-neutral CBT for women with AUD. Future research should examine whether FS-CBT enhances treatment utilization for women.

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