Previous research shows that automatic tendency to approach alcohol plays a causal role in problematic alcohol use and can be retrained by Approach Bias Modification (ApBM). ApBM has been shown to be effective for patients diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD) in inpatient treatment. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of adding an online ApBM to treatment as usual (TAU) in an outpatient setting compared to receiving TAU with an online placebo training. 139 AUD patients receiving face-to-face or online treatment as usual (TAU) participated in the study. The patients were randomized to an active or placebo version of 8 sessions of online ApBM over a 5-week period. The weekly consumed standard units of alcohol (primary outcome) was measured at pre-and post-training, 3 and 6 months follow-up. Approach tendency was measured pre-and-post ApBM training. No additional effect of ApBM was found on alcohol intake, nor other outcomes such as craving, depression, anxiety, or stress. A significant reduction of the alcohol approach bias was found. This research showed that approach bias retraining in AUD patients in an outpatient treatment setting reduces the tendency to approach alcohol, but this training effect does not translate into a significant difference in alcohol reduction between groups. Explanations for the lack of effects of ApBM on alcohol consumption are treatment goal and severity of AUD. Future ApBM research should target outpatients with an abstinence goal and offer alternative, more user-friendly modes of delivering ApBM training.
- Alcohol dependence
- Alcohol-approach bias
- Cognitive bias modification
- Online approach bias modification