Dr. Katie Witkiewitz

Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center on Alcohol, Substance use, and Addictions at the University of New Mexico

Dr. Katie Witkiewitz is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center on Alcohol, Substance use, and Addictions at the University of New Mexico. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked extensively on the development of a theoretical model of biopsychosocial influences on substance use relapse. She has been conducting research examining patterns and predictors of alcohol use since1999 and has recently been working to improve research and methodological practices in the study of alcohol treatment outcomes. To date, Dr.Witkiewitz has authored 6 books and over 300 peer-reviewed publications and bookchapters, and she has given over100 presentations and invited talks. Her research has been supported by grants from the National Institute on Mental Health, the NationalInstitute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, totaling over $55 million in research funding since 2004. 

Talk 1: Alcohol harm reduction and expanding definitions of recovery

Abstinence from alcohol is often viewed as the most desirable and ideal outcome for individuals with alcohol use disorder. Yet, most individuals with alcohol use disorder do not want to abstain from drinking and do not seek treatment. Over the past 20 years, there have been several significant methodological advances in studying patterns and predictors of alcohol use and drinking reductions, yet most of the work has not had a major influence on clinical practice. The current talk will provide a broad overview of this literature and present new data on the validity of World Health Organization drinking risk levels as a harm reduction target for alcohol use disorder treatment, as well as data on non-abstinent recovery pathways. Results from several recent studies provide evidence that reductions in World Health Organization drinking risk levels are a viable alternative to abstinence as a public health and harm reduction strategy and as an outcome for alcohol clinical trials. The talk will also highlight new perspectives and new empirical data examining non-abstinent recovery from alcohol use disorder.

Talk 2: Studying mechanisms of behavior change to inform precision medicine for alcohol use disorder

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a heterogeneous disorder. Recent work in the field has focused on genetic and neurobiological markers of AUD treatment response, but self-report measures can also be useful in teasing apart mechanisms of treatment outcomes.  In this talk we highlight recent findings from analyses of alcohol clinical trial data which have provided evidence of mechanisms of behavior change, as well as for patient-treatment interactions that may inform precision medicine approaches to the treatment of AUD. Clinical skills to impact mechanisms of behavior change will also be described

Talk 3: Mindfulness-Based Interventions in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders

Returning to some level of substance use is common following substance use disorder treatments, highlighting the need for improved aftercare interventions. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) integrates evidence-based approaches from mindfulness-based interventions with best practices from cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention. Prior trials have demonstrated the long-term efficacy of MBRP in reducing substance use and heavy drinking as compared to standard cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention and treatment as usual over a 12-month follow-up period. This talk provides an introduction to mindfulness-based interventions to increase awareness of triggers and automatic reactions in the service of reducing heavy drinking and drug use, as well as the risk of relapse to substance use following treatment. The talk will include a review of outcomes from four randomized clinical trials of mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) and our ongoing work using adaptations of MBRP in an outpatient alcohol clinic and a residential treatment facility for individuals with substance use disorder. The talk will be experiential providing the opportunity to learn about the intentions and principles of mindfulness based interventions through mindfulness practices.