Heavy drinkers in treatment for domestic abuse should also get some counseling about their alcohol use, a new study has found. Researchers know that drinking lowers inhibitions, impairs judgment, and can make heavy drinkers more impulsive—a combination that can lead to violence in a domestic abuse situation. Men who are in “batterer programs” (a court-referred group educational session to educate men about violence) don’t always get counseling about their alcohol use.
Researchers from the University of Tennessee studied 252 men who had been arrested for domestic violence and also reported binge drinking at least once a month. All of the men attended the battery program, and half attended an additional individual therapy session on substance abuse. Men who had received substance abuse counseling showed greater short-term improvement in both alcohol consumption and violence. They showed less physical and psychological aggression and drank less often. The substance abuse therapy gave these men a “jump start” over the other group, researcher Gregory Stuart said; however, the gap between the two groups grew smaller over time. Researchers suggested that multiple follow-up sessions might ensure continued accelerated progress.