Vakgroep Psychologie, Gezondheid & Technologie

Tactus: Preliminary RCT analysis of an online Cognitive Bias Modification Alcohol Avoidance Training as adjunct to treatment as usual.


Msc assignment


1 student

Existing data 

Type of research: quantitative empirical

10 EC



Tactus Addiction Treatment has developed the evidence-based web-based treatment for problematic alcohol use, Although evidence-based, success rates are modest and still many clients relapse. One of the explanations for this limited effectiveness might be that addictive behavior is strongly determined by automatic, unconscious cognitive processes that are difficult to control. One such automatic process is the approach bias towards alcohol, the action tendency to approach alcohol stimuli, that develops during a sustained pattern of repeated drinking behavior.


Recently, techniques have become available to retrain established approach biases to a more beneficial avoidance bias. By systematically “pushing away” alcohol pictures on screen and “pulling” non-alcoholic beverage pictures, a reconditioning process occurs. Such cognitive bias modification (CBM) techniques have been show effective as an add-on to regular CBT treatment. Therefore, a cognitive bias modification (CBM) training technique based on the approach-avoidance computer task (AAT), was adapted for online use in addition to the web-based treatment Alcoholdebaas.


A double-blind, randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted with the aim to examine the effectiveness of online CBM Alcohol Avoidance Training as a supplement to treatment as usual (TAU) in an outpatient treatment setting.


Participants were alcohol dependent patients (age 18 years or over) following web-based or face-to-face TAU to reduce or stop drinking. Patients were randomly assigned to a CBM Alcohol Avoidance training or to a placebo training. The primary outcome measure was a reduction in alcohol consumption. Secondary outcome measures included an improvement in health status, a decrease in depression, anxiety, stress, and possible mediation by the change in approach bias.


The preliminary data of the pre-, post and follow-up assessments of n=104 patients are available now. The student will conduct preliminary analysis with this data to answer the following research questions:

·       Is there an added effect of CBM-AAT on the treatment outcomes weekly alcohol consumption, health, depressive symptoms, and quality of life?

·       Is the effect on treatment outcome mediated by a change in approach bias?


Who are we looking for?:

We are looking for a student with interest in addiction treatment and the willingness to work partly at the Tactus location in Enschede during the data analysis phase. The thesis must be written in English.



First supervisor: Dr. Marloes Postel, department Psychology, Health & Technology & Tactus

Second supervisor: Dr. Marcel Pieterse, department Psychology, Health & Technology

External supervisor: Drs. Melissa Laurens, PhD-student Breindebaas project & Saxion