Background: Alcohol abuse serves as a chronic stressor between partners and has a deleterious effect on relationship functioning. Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT) for alcohol dependence, studied as an adjunct to individual outpatient counseling, has shown to be effective in decreasing alcohol consumption and enhancing marital functioning, but no study has directly tested the comparative effectiveness of stand-alone BCT versus an individually focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in a clinical community sample. Methods: The present study is a randomized clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of stand-alone BCT (n = 30) compared to individual CBT (n = 34) in the treatment of alcohol use disorders in community treatment centers in Dutch male and female alcoholics and their partners. Results: Results show both BCT and CBT to be effective in changing drinking behavior after treatment. BCT was not found to be superior to CBT. Marital satisfaction of the spouse increased significantly in the BCT condition but not in the CBT condition, the differences being significant at the post-test. Patients’ self-efficacy to withstand alcohol-related high-risk situations increased significantly in both treatment conditions, but more so in CBT than in BCT after treatment. Treatment involvement of the spouse did not increase retention. Conclusion: Regular practitioners in community treatment centers can effectively deliver both treatments. Stand-alone BCT is as effective as CBT in terms of reduced drinking and to some extent more effective in terms of enhancing relationship satisfaction. However, BCT is a more costly intervention, given that treatment sessions lasted almost twice as long as individual CBT sessions.

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