Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counseling and Personnel

First Advisor

Dr. Robert F. Hopkins

Second Advisor

Dr. Edward Trembley

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Brashear

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Chris Koranokos


This study investigated the psychological construct of hopelessness as a factor in hospitalized alcoholics. There is a high suicide rate for alcoholics, and previous research has shown hopelessness to be a key factor in suicide. There have been no previous studies of hopelessness in alcoholics.

The purposes of this study were to establish norms and reliability of the Hopelessness Scale, an instrument designed to measure hopelessness, and to gain more information about hopelessness by testing several hypotheses concerning the relationship between hopelessness and certain variables. These variables included severity of alcoholism, depression, age, length of problem drinking, number of hospitalizations for drinking, relationship with family of origin, pending legal problems, and changes in hopelessness during a treatment program.

Subjects were 94 inpatients of a 30-day substance abuse treatment program of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. In addition to the HS, instrumentation included the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST). Upon admission, the subjects completed the HS, BDI and MAST. The HS and BDI were administered again approximately a week after admission and a final time at the completion of the program.

Those who were classified as alcoholics by the MAST had a mean HS score of 5.00 with a standard deviation of 4.66 and a range of 0-20. Reliability of the HS for this population using Kuder-Richardson procedures was .94, and using Split-half procedures it was .80 with a Spearman-Brown correction of .89.

The correlation between depression and alcoholism was higher than the correlation between hopelessness and alcoholism. The correlation between the BDI and MAST was significant (p < .01) while the correlation between the HS and MAST did not reach significance. No relationship between hopelessness and age, length of drinking problem, and number of previous hospitalizations for alcoholism was found. Significantly higher initial HS scores were found for subjects who were not married, who were unemployed, who could not turn to their family of origin for support, and who had legal problems pending. The levels of hopelessness as well as the levels of depression decreased significantly (p < .001) during the treatment program. The differences in the levels of hopelessness noted initially for the subjects who were not married, unemployed, without family support, and with legal problems, changed during the program so that there was no difference in each category at the end of treatment.

The results were interpreted as evidence that alcoholics in treatment did not experience hopelessness as much as those who have attempted suicide. The decision and preparations to enter treatment probably served to alleviate hopelessness which may have been present. Although a significant correlation between hopelessness and alcoholism was not found in this sample of hospitalized alcoholics, because of the high rate of suicide in alcoholics and the nature of alcoholism to consist of recurrent failures and dashing of hopes, it was recommended that the issues of hopelessness be addressed in the treatment of alcoholics to serve as an inoculation against possible future episodes of hopelessness and possible suicide.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access