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Pilot randomised trial of functional imagery training plus treatment as usual versus treatment as usual alone to reduce alcohol-related harm in patients with alcohol-related liver disease admitted to hospital

Alcohol-related liver disease (ArLD) is caused by long-term heavy alcohol use and is the commonest cause of liver disease in the UK. The only cure to prevent worsening of this type of liver disease is by reducing or stopping drinking alcohol. A new pilot study developed by Dr Ashwin Dhanda, Consultant and Honorary Associate Professor in Hepatology and Professor Jackie Andrade, Deputy Head of School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, will test whether a new form of psychological therapy, Functional Imagery Training (FIT), can help patients admitted to hospital with ArLD to stop drinking.

With funding from The Jon Moulton Charity Trust the study will randomise participants to receive either treatment as usual (TAU) and FIT, or TAU alone. TAU consists of a form of motivational interviewing with a trained health professional for around 20 minutes, upon discharge from hospital participants are then signposted to community services. FIT uses mental imagery to support a change in behaviour by encouraging participants to identify why they want to stop drinking, and what ideas they have for that before developing vivid images in their mind showing the first steps they will take towards their goal, how they will use their personal strengths to overcome obstacles, and how they will feel when they have successfully reduced their alcohol use. Participants will be trained to practice imagery regularly, ready for use when they experience a craving for alcohol or a lack of motivation. Initial training in FIT takes less than an hour and is then strengthened by occasional top-up sessions.

90 participants will be recruited across University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and will inform the research team whether participants find FIT helpful, whether they continue using it following discharge from hospital, and how well health professionals can deliver FIT. This information will help design a larger study to answer whether FIT is better than the current support offered and is good value for money, as a treatment for alcohol-dependence in people with ArLD.


Consultant profile of Dr Ashwin Dhanda, Consultant Hepatologist (plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk)

Hepatology (Southwest Liver Unit) (plymouthhospitals.nhs.uk)

Professor Jackie Andrade - University of Plymouth

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