Initial motivations for alcohol treatment: Relations with patient characteristics, treatment involvement, and dropout

Richard M. Ryan, Robert W. Plant, Stephanie O'Malley

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This study examines (a) the relation of initial treatment motivations to alcoholics' involvement in outpatient treatment and dropout and (b) the relations among patient characteristics, severity, alcohol expectancies, motivation, and treatment retention. A treatment motivation questionnaire (TMQ) was developed to assess both internalized and external motivations for treatment, as well as confidence in the treatment and orientation towards interpersonal help seeking. In Study I, the TMQ was administered to 109 outpatients entering an alcoholism clinic. Based on these data the scale was revised and was administered to a subsequent sample of 98 subjects seeking treatment. Information about demographic variables, measures of substance use, alcohol expectancies, and psychiatric severity was also gathered. Eight weeks after intake, outcome was evaluated through attendance records and clinician ratings. Results revealed that internalized motivation was associated with greater patient involvement and retention in treatment. Subjects high in both internalized and external motivation demonstrated the best attendance and treatment retention while those low in internalized motivation showed the poorest treatment response, regardless of the level of external motivation. Problem severity was also related to a greater degree of internalized motivation. The importance of initial motivations in understanding treatment response and dropout is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-297
Number of pages19
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1995

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was aided in part by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HDl99141 to the Human Motivation Program at the Untversity of Rochester: from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tRIAA09.538) to Stephanie O’Malley: and by funds provided by the Sterling Institute. The authors would like to thank the patients and staff of the Connecticut Mental Health Center Alcohol Treatment Unit for their participation, Thanks al\o to Elizabeth Whitehe<td. Geof Williams. Ed Deci. and others for their input to this manuscript. Requests for reprints should be sent to Richard M. Ryan. Department University of Rochester. Rochester. NY 14627.


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