RIA Deputy Director
Senior Research Scientist
Research Associate Professor, Psychology
Treatment of alcohol problems; spouse involvement in alcohol treatment; Alcoholics Anonymous; dissemination of empirically-supported treatments.
Research suggests that smokers’ daily behaviors are enhanced by nicotine, an addictive chemical in tobacco. For instance, the simple act of listening to music becomes more pleasurable during cigarette consumption. Among nonsmokers, however, pleasure derived from every-day activities tends to decrease when those activities are consistently repeated. To test the hypothesis that nicotine dependence may be partially maintained via the enhancement of rewarding behaviors associated with cigarette consumption, smokers will complete a brief computer task while brain activity is continuously recorded. Most importantly, we will examine changes in brain activity during regular smoking and while individuals temporarily abstain from smoking. Funded by RIA's Howard T. Blane Director’s Award for Development of Innovative Research in the Addictions (BDAA), 2014-2015.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been shown to be efficacious in increasing the ability to cope with stress and in enhancing coping and psychological well-being. In this study, MBSR was evaluated in a clinical setting with alcohol dependent patients. In phase one of this study, an eight-session treatment manual for conducting group-based MBSR was adapted for use in the context of a standardized 10-session treatment-as-usual (TAU) for alcohol dependent men and women. In phase two, a pilot clinical trial was conducted to examine the effects of adding MBSR to TAU for alcohol dependent outpatients. The outcomes were compared to the outcomes for patients receiving TAU plus a series of Health and Lifestyle Lectures (TAU + HLL). Co-investigators include Drs. Kimberly S. Walitzer, Nancy J. Smyth, UB School of Social Work, and Craig R. Colder, UB Department of Psychology. Funded by a grant of $1,977,241 from NIAAA, 2007-2012.
Research has provided substantial evidence for a relationship between alcoholism and anger emotions (e.g., annoyance, irritation, frustration, anger, hostility). There also is evidence that alcoholics score higher on measures of anger emotions compared to non-alcoholics, and furthermore, that anger emotions are common precipitants to relapse. In this study, Dr. Walitzer plans to develop and evaluate an anger management treatment protocol (specifically Cognitive-relaxation and Coping Skills Training [CRCS]) for use as an outpatient alcoholism treatment. The project will be conducted in two phases. The first phase will involve the development of a 12-session treatment manual for conducting anger management therapy with outpatient alcohol-dependent men and women scoring high on an index of anger emotions. The second phase will include a pilot clinical trial to examine the relative effects of the alcohol-adapted CRCS among alcoholics. The long-term goal of this research is to improve alcohol outcomes and decrease relapse, which will provide significant health benefits to persons being treatment for alcohol dependence. Dr. Walitzer’s co-investigators are Drs. Gerard J. Connors and Paul R. Stasiewicz of RIA. Funded by a grant of $1,783,125 from NIAAA, 2008-2014.
This study investigated the dissemination and “real world” effectiveness of a motivational interviewing-(MI)-based preparatory procedure designed to reduce early attrition from alcoholism outpatient treatment. In order to study dissemination and adoption of the procedure, 150 New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) alcoholism outpatient clinics were randomly assigned to one of three dissemination conditions. Researchers examined the clinic sites’ rates of client retention and client treatment outcome prior to and following dissemination. Funded by a grant of $2,670,633 from NIAAA, 2004-2011.
In this five year project, Dr. Kimberly Walitzer assessed the effectiveness of two strategies designed to facilitate involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous during a 12-session outpatient alcoholism treatment program. The “motivational” strategy focused on enhancement of clients’ motivation towards AA participation. The “directive-confrontive” strategy included AA education, instruction, and attendance contracts. Funded by a grant of $1,442,378 from NIAAA, 1999-2004.
Dr. Kimberly Walitzer examined whether the involvement of the drinker’s spouse and the inclusion of marital therapy improves the effectiveness of programs targeted to adults with mild to moderate alcohol problems. Data analysis is ongoing. Funded by a grant of $2,006,786 from NIAAA, 1994-2000.