Nav: Home

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:

The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: Mental health harms related to very frequent social media use in girls might be due to exposure to cyberbullying, loss of sleep or reduced physical activity
Very frequent use of social media may compromise teenage girls' mental health by increasing exposure to bullying and reducing sleep and physical exercise, according to an observational study of almost 10,000 adolescents aged 13-16 years studied over three years in England between 2013-2015, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
Can Facebook improve your mental health?
Contrary to popular belief, using social media and the internet regularly could improve mental health among adults and help fend off serious psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, finds a new Michigan State University study.
A gut feeling for mental health
The first population-level study on the link between gut bacteria and mental health identifies specific gut bacteria linked to depression and provides evidence that a wide range of gut bacteria can produce neuroactive compounds.
Mental health care increasing most among those with less distress
A new study shows that more Americans are getting outpatient mental health care and the rate of serious psychological distress is decreasing.
On-again, off-again relationships might be toxic for mental health
A researcher from the University of Missouri says that the pattern of breaking up and getting back together can impact an individual's mental health and not for the better.
More Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...