GEORGE, ANITA ALEXANDER; PHD
                         AUBURN UNIVERSITY, 1994

                         PSYCHOLOGY, CLINICAL (0622)

                         Because most problem drinkers do not seek treatment, investigation of influences on the help-seeking
                         process is warranted. Although greater psychosocial problems related to drinking are associated with
                         greater help-seeking, little is known about the role of the problem drinker's social networks in promoting
                         or deterring help-seeking. Also lacking is an understanding of why some problem drinkers enter
                         Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), rather than formal treatment programs. A.A.'s appeal may lie, in part, in its
                         provision of an alternative social network that provides clear information about drinking problems and a
                         social (group) format to support behavior change. The present study investigated the social networks of
                         problem drinkers who varied in their current help-seeking status $(n = 15$ per group): (1) A.A.
                         participants, (2) outpatient alcohol treatment participants, and (3) untreated, active problem drinkers, who
                         served as controls. Subjects' drinking practices, alcohol-related problems, recent event occurrences,
                         and social network characteristics were assessed during structured interviews conducted within 6
                         months after subjects sought help (or over a matched interval for controls). Collaterals verified subjects'
                         reports of their drinking and help-seeking status. The three groups reported similar drinking practices,
                         alcohol dependence levels, event occurrences, and overall social support. Help-seeking was associated
                         with greater alcohol-related psychosocial problems and with less encouragement to drink and with more
                         encouragement to seek help from social network members. A.A. subjects, in particular, reported greater
                         exposure to conflicting messages about help-seeking from network members than did treatment
                         subjects. Significant barriers to help-seeking included subjects' belief that their problems were not
                         serious enough to warrant help while incentives for help-seeking included family conflict and
                         encouragement to seek help. These findings suggest that a clearer understanding of the social needs
                         and resources of problem drinkers in relation to help-seeking may improve client-treatment matching and
                         client motivation for behavior change.


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