Functional analysis is a step in cognitive behavioral therapy. It can be used to help alcoholics identify factors that lead to alcohol abuse. When used effectively as part of a comprehensive treatment regimen, functional analysis can help an alcoholic avoid relapse and replace negative behaviors with positive habits.
Many who struggle with alcohol abuse never learned positive coping skills that non-alcoholics take for granted. [Cognitive behavioral therapy](http://www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt.htm) and functional analysis helps clients take a proactive and rational approach to alcoholism – understanding its triggers and identifying its enablers. The result is an overall healthier lifestyle.
Functional Analysis as a Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
When a client is seeking treatment for alcoholism, functional analysis is one of the first things the therapist may recommend. It is a systematic examination of the consequences of addictive behavior. When carried out effectively, functional analysis gives way to highly targeted treatment plans.
During the analysis, the alcoholic sits down with the therapist or counselor. The two work in tandem to identify feelings, thoughts and behaviors that are associated with the client’s drinking habits. These could be feelings that precede cravings, or thoughts that arise before, during and after drinking. Identifying high-risk behaviors that lead to relapse is a primary goal at this point.
This sort of in-depth analysis is beneficial for the therapist as well as the client. Both get an idea of the client’s triggers and problem areas. Insight like this is invaluable at the start of a treatment program, as it contributes to a customized treatment program with a higher probability of success.
Conducting Functional Analysis
Standard [functional analysis](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_analysis_(psychology)) begins with the therapist prompting the client to recollect a recent episode of alcohol abuse. This may involve asking and answering a series of questions or jotting down ideas as they surface. Any process that leads to a better understanding of a typical relapse scenario is acceptable. The goal is always to achieve insight into thoughts and behaviors related to the client’s alcoholism.
In the course of the analysis, the client and the therapist will be able to identify factors that propel or maintain the client’s alcohol abuse. Factors could be something tangible and outside the body such as friends or living arrangements. But these are often joined by internal factors including a skewed worldview or severe anxiety.
This is a list of questions often asked when using functional analysis to treat alcohol abuse:
* When was the last time you drank alcohol?
* What happened before you started drinking?
* Where were you at the time?
* How were you feeling on that day?
* At what moment did you realize that you wanted to drink?
* What sort of feelings did you experience while you were drinking? What about after the incident was over?
* What consequences (positive and negative) arose because of the drinking?
Functional Analysis Reduces Drinking
At its core, functional analysis aims to pinpoint any factors that are actively maintaining behaviors related to alcohol abuse. This is an important distinction, as some people assume that the goal is rooting out reasons that alcohol abuse began in the first place. By focusing only on factors that keep alcohol in the equation, eliminating its role in an alcoholic’s life is made simpler.
For example, many people who begin drinking alcohol do so socially with friends at a relatively young age. At this point, the urge to drink may be recreational or driven by social pressures. Later in life, the behavior is likely to evolve. With the introduction of new stressors or life situations, the person may turn to alcohol as a means of coping with anxiety or self medicating. At this point, the reason the person started drinking is irrelevant in terms of instituting an [alcohol rehabilitation](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_rehabilitation) program.
After conducting the functional analysis, the next step is to institute skills training. In the context of an alcohol rehab center, this will be a targeted training program that focuses on unlearning old habits and replacing them with new ones. Ideally, habits that lead to alcohol abuse are replaced with positive activities and thought patterns. These do more than merely avert relapse. They have the potential to improve interpersonal skills, encourage better emotional copping behaviors and enhance the person’s social support network.
Used in conjunction with a holistic alcohol rehabilitation program, functional analysis is an effective tool for avoiding high-risk behaviors. Clients enjoy the empowerment that comes with positive coping skills and a reduced likelihood of relapse.
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