Interactive Computer System Helps Family Members Cope with an Alcohol Abuser

Development and pilot test of computer-based intervention system for families of alcoholics

In 1995–1996, investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison created a computer-based system designed to help parents and partners of alcohol abusers cope more effectively with problems arising from the alcohol abuse.

They adapted an existing system, called CHESS (Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System), which allows users to:

  • Communicate anonymously with peers.
  • Question experts.
  • Learn where to get help and how to use it.
  • Read stories of people who have survived similar problems.
  • Read relevant articles.
  • Consider difficult decisions.
  • Plan how to regain control of their lives.

Key Results
The project:

  • Assessed the need of parents and partners of alcohol abusers for information, referral, social support, and decision-making support.
  • Modified CHESS to address their needs.
  • Conducted pilot test in the Madison, Wis., area in 1996 to evaluate the effects of providing CHESS to these individuals.

Key Findings
Pilot-test participants:

  • Expressed a high level of satisfaction with the system.
  • Reported an increase in energy and activity.
  • Said that CHESS had increased their knowledge of how to help themselves.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a grant of $181,378 from January 1995 to December 1996 to support the project.