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A role for nursing in teaching and counseling wives of alcoholics: A comparison of two group approaches

Nancy Bartot Fisk, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study was to examine and compare the behavioral outcomes of two group approaches to helping wives of alcoholic men. Both were psychoeducational approaches combining didactic teaching and group counseling techniques. Both approaches were aimed at the ultimate goal of facilitating more effective coping by the wives despite their husbands' active alcoholism and its consequences. Both approaches were expected to result in decreased use of negative coping behaviors ("survival behaviors") and both were expected to facilitate entry into and involvement with Al-Anon. One group, Group A, received a program based on a family-systems perspective of family alcoholism using adapted techniques from Berenson, Wegscheider, and Borwick; Al-Anon was mentioned but not actively encouraged. A second group, Group B, received an identical format of six, two-hour sessions. However, the second group received a more person-focused approach with a more conventional program stressing the disease concept of alcoholism and Al-Anon concepts. Al-Anon attendance was directly encouraged in the latter group but not in the former. The "Spouse Survival Behavior Scale" which was developed by this investigator was administered to both groups at the first and again at the last session. Group A wives reported decreased use of "survival behaviors": group means for the scale as a whole and for two of six sub-scales significantly decreased. However, none of the wives reported attending Al-Anon on one month and and two month follow-up calls. Group B wives did not significantly decrease their self-reported use of "survival behaviors" when comparison of pretest and posttest group means were subjected to a t-test. However, analysis of adjunctive qualitative data raised the possibility that Group B wives were using less denial as a defense and had emotionally detached to a greater degree than Group A wives. One month and two month follow-up telephone call data on Al-Anon attendance revealed that 2 of the group B wives had also been regularly attending Al-Anon. Differences in gain scores between Group A and Group B were not shown to be statistically significant when examined at the level of the whole test. However, changes in one sub-scale (Cluster V: Blaming/Punishing) showed significantly less self-reported use of behaviors in this category by Group A as compared with Group B who increased their use of these behaviors. The latter was the only statistically significant finding of this study which supported one of the research hypotheses.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Health education|Nursing

Recommended Citation

Fisk, Nancy Bartot, "A role for nursing in teaching and counseling wives of alcoholics: A comparison of two group approaches" (1989). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9011724.