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Treatment Approaches That Work Best

Two generalizations can be made about treatment effectiveness:

  • Treatments that combine strategies, such as education in conjunction with therapy and aftercare, appear to be most effective for repeat as well as first-time offenders (Wells-Parker, Bangert-Drowns, McMillen, and Williams, 1995; DeYoung, 1997; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2000; Wells-Parker and Williams, 2002; Cavaiola and Wuth, 2002).
  • The more severe the alcohol problem, the more intensive should be the treatment (Mayhew and Simpson, 1991). For alcohol-dependent offenders, any one of three popular treatment philosophies appear to work equally well in reducing alcohol abuse up to one year post-treatment. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), and twelve-step facilitation therapy (TSF) (Project MATCH Research Group, 1997).

Data are insufficient to determine the most effective specific treatment strategy for individual offenders. In general, evidence for alcohol problem treatment supports a 7- to 9-percent reduction of DWI recidivism and crashes averaged across all offender and treatment types (Wells-Parker et al., 1995).