Unilateral Family Therapy

Unilateral therapyPurpose

The aim is to educate and engage family caregivers in changing their own behavior within their relationship with a person who abuses substances, with the goal of engaging the care recipient in treatment


Over a 4-6 month period, the partners were trained in ways to change the relationship, e.g. stop nagging or engaging in other aversive behaviors, to avoid enabling the drinking.

Target Population

Family members of adults who abuse alcohol

Research Outcomes

Randomized control trial found higher treatment entry rate among families who engaged in UFT (39%) versus delayed treatment control group (11%)

Outcome Research References

Thomas, E.J., Santa, C.A., Bronson, D., & Oyserman, D.(1987). Unilateral family therapy with the spouses of alcoholics. Journal of Social Service Research, 10(2-4), 145-162.

Thomas, E.J., & Yoshioka, M.R. (1989). Spouse interventive confrontations in unilateral family therapy for alcohol abuse. Social Casework, 70, 340-347.

Thomas, E.J., Yoshioka, M.R., & Ager, R.D. (1996). Spouse enabling of alcohol abuse: Conception, assessment and modification. Journal of Substance Abuse, 8(1), 61-80.

Yoshioka, M.R., Thomas, E.J., & Ager, R.D. (1992). Nagging and other drinking control efforts of spouses of uncooperative alcohol abusers: assessment and modification. Journal of Substance Abuse, 4(3), 309-318.

Clinical Approach References

Thomas, C. & Corcoran, J. (2001). Empirically based marital and family interventions for alcohol abuse: A review. Research on Social Work Practice, 11, 549-575.

Thomas, E.J., & Ager, R.D. (1993). Unilateral family therapy with spouses of uncooperative alcohol abusers. In T.J. O'Farrell (Ed.), Treating alcohol problems: Marital and family interventions (pp. 3-33). New York: Guilford.

Thomas, E.J., & Santa, C.A. (1982). Unilateral family therapy for alcohol abuse: A working conception. Social Work Research & Abstracts, 21(2), 49-58.