The interplay between help seeking and alcohol related outcomes: divergent processes for professional treatment and self-help groups.

This study examined the influence of self-selection on the duration of professional treatment and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the influence of social causation on alcohol-related outcomes.

A sample of alcoholics was surveyed at baseline and 1, 3, and 8 years later. Participants completed an inventory at each survey that assessed participation in treatment and AA since the last assessment and alcohol-related functioning.

There were divergent processes of self-selection and social causation with respect to the duration of participation in professional treatment and AA.

Individuals with more severe alcohol-related problems obtained longer episodes of professional treatment, but this self-selection process was much less evident for AA.

Longer participation in professional treatment in the first year predicted better alcohol-related outcomes, but the duration of subsequent treatment was not associated with better subsequent outcomes.

In contrast, longer participation in AA consistently predicted better subsequent alcohol-related outcomes.

The findings are consistent with a need-based model of professional treatment, in which more treatment is selected by and allocated to individuals with more severe problems, and an egalitarian model of self-help, in which needs play little or no role in continued participation.

Rudolf H. Moos and Bernice S. Moos. The interplay between help-seeking and alcohol-related outcomes: divergent processes for professional treatment and self-help groups. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 75(2):155-164, August 2004.