Kids should be part of treatment for moms fighting substance use

November 02, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Mothers in therapy for drug and alcohol use recover faster if their children take part in their treatment sessions, according to a first-of-its-kind study.

Researchers found that women who were in family therapy - which included their 8- to 16-year-old children - showed a quicker decline in alcohol, marijuana and cocaine use over 18 months compared to mothers who were in individual therapy.

This is the first study to examine the effectiveness of family therapy for mothers who are substance users, said Natasha Slesnick, lead author of the study and professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

"Interpersonal stress, especially within the family, has been shown to be an important factor in drug and alcohol abuse," Slesnick said. "So it makes sense that having mothers and children working together in therapy can help moms with substance use problems do better over time.

"Family therapy is not generally part of the treatment options for substance-using mothers, but this study suggests it should be."

Slesnick conducted the study with Jing Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State. The study appears in the current issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

The study involved 183 mothers who were seeking outpatient treatment and met diagnostic criteria for having an alcohol or drug use disorder. All had at least one biological child aged 8 to 16.

Some of the mothers were placed in a 12-session program called Ecologically Based Family Therapy. EBFT focuses on improving social interactions, emotional connectedness and problem resolution skills among family members.

Other mothers were assigned to an individual therapy program called Women's Health Education.

All participants were assessed at the beginning of the study and then three, six, 12 and 18 months later.

Substance use was assessed using structured interviews with the mothers in which the researchers calculated the percentage of mothers' total days of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and opioids use in the past 90 days.

For the EBFT group, the mother and child participated in a 10-minute interaction task at the beginning of the study and six and 18 months later. The researchers watched the interaction and rated the mother and child relationship quality.

Results showed that all mothers showed reduced alcohol, marijuana and cocaine use over time, but mothers in the family therapy saw their substance use decrease more quickly.

The exception involved opioids, such as heroin - mothers reported similar decreases in use after both the individual and family therapies.

"Different drugs affect family dynamics in different ways, and we need more research to determine why opioids respond differently to family therapy," Slesnick said.

Family therapy is probably more helpful to moms battling most substance use issues than individual therapy because it deals with the family stresses that contribute to drug and alcohol use, she said.

The researchers hoped that assessing differences in the mother-child interaction before and after treatment would help them determine whether changes in these family dynamics were the key to the success of family therapy, but the results did not confirm that link. Slesnick said she still believes the link is there, but that there weren't enough subjects in the study to prove it.

Preliminary data from upcoming studies by the researchers suggests that family therapy is not only good for the mothers - it helps their children's mental health, as well.

"Children are usually not included in the treatment plans of their mothers, but they should be. They already have to deal with their moms' substance use in many ways. Being part of the therapy can help both them and their mothers," she said.
-end-
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Contact: Natasha Slesnick, 614-247-8469; Slesnick.5@osu.edu

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, 614-292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

Ohio State University

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.