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Motivational enhancement therapy versus cognitive behavioral therapy in a cohort of men and women with alcohol use disorder

Giovanna Coriale, Francesca De Rosa, Gemma Battagliese, Simona Gencarelli, Marco Fiore, Giampiero Ferraguti, Mario Vitali, Claudia Rotondo, Marisa Patrizia Messina, Maria Luisa Attilia


The clinical manifestations of alcohol dependence are not homogeneous. Many studies described both cognitive impairments and psychiatric disorders among people with Alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, AUD can be present without comorbid psychiatric disorders or severe cognitive deficits, namely, “pure alcoholics”. Until now, knowledge about effective treatments for this typology of AUD patients remains unknown. The aim of the present study was to assess two psychological methods of intervention: Cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) in the short format and the Motivational enhancement therapy (MET). We then opted to compare the efficacy of methods in treating AUD in both men and women pure alcoholics. We performed a controlled and randomized study consisting of 325 people affected by AUD (244 men, 81 women). 72.3% (n=235; 181 men 54 women) were excluded according to selection criteria. The major percentage of exclusion (38.7%; n=91; 63 men 28 women) regarded patients with comorbid psychiatric disorders. Only the 90 remaining test subjects (27.7% of the sample population; 63 men and 27 women) classified as pure alcoholics were eligible for this study. The test subjects were divided into two groups. One group underwent MET (n=47; 35 men and 12 women) and the other underwent CBT (n=43; 28 men and 15 women). We found a significant adherence to the treatment in the CBT group (19 men and 9 women) compared to the MET group (3 men and 1 woman). At the end of treatment, the dropout rates for the CBT and MET therapy groups were 34.9% and 91.5%, respectively. Moreover, we found no differences in the percentage of abstinent days between CBT and MET groups at three months (CBT: n=36; mean 91.40±15.34; MET: n=18; mean 93.90±11.95; t(52)= 0.605, p=0.550), at six months (CBT: N=30; mean 85.00±30.71; MET: n=9; mean 87.78±33.08; t(37)=-0.234, p=0.820) and at twelve months from the beginning of treatment (CBT: n=28; mean 90.14±22.06; MET: n=4; mean 100±0; t(30)=-0.881, p=0.838). In conclusion, we disclose that CBT in the short format could be an effective treatment strategy for pure alcoholics without psychiatric disorders or severe cognitive deficits.


cognitive-behavioral treatment, alcohol dependence, treatment efficacy, coping strategy, mechanism of change, self-efficacy

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About The Authors

Giovanna Coriale
Centro Alcologico della Regione Lazio (CRARL), ASL Roma 1, Sapienza University of Rome

Francesca De Rosa
Centro Alcologico della Regione Lazio (CRARL), ASL Roma 1, Sapienza University of Rome

Gemma Battagliese
Centro Alcologico della Regione Lazio (CRARL), ASL Roma 1, Sapienza University of Rome

Simona Gencarelli
Centro Alcologico della Regione Lazio (CRARL), ASL Roma 1, Sapienza University of Rome

Marco Fiore
CNR, Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Rome

Giampiero Ferraguti
Department of Experimental Medicine, Sapienza University, Rome

Mario Vitali
ASUR Marche, AV4, Ancona

Claudia Rotondo
Centro Alcologico della Regione Lazio (CRARL), ASL Roma 1, Sapienza University of Rome

Marisa Patrizia Messina
Centro Alcologico della Regione Lazio (CRARL), ASL Roma 1, Sapienza University of Rome

Maria Luisa Attilia
Centro Alcologico della Regione Lazio (CRARL), ASL Roma 1, Sapienza University of Rome

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