Cognitive–behavioral treatment for alcohol dependence: a review of evidence for its hypothesized mechanisms of action



Objective. This review examined support for the hypothesis that cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) for alcohol dependence works through increasing cognitive and behavioral coping skills. Method. Ten studies were identified that examined the hypothesized mechanisms of action of CBT. These studies involved random assignment (or its near equivalent) of participants to CBT and at least one comparison condition. Results. Although numerous analyses of the possible causal links have been conducted to evaluate whether CBT works through increasing coping, the results indicate little support for the hypothesized mechanisms of action of CBT. Conclusions. Research has not yet established why CBT is an effective treatment for alcohol dependence. Negative findings may reflect methodological flaws of prior studies. Alternatively, findings may indicate one or more conceptual assumptions underlying CBT require revision.