Specialized Counseling Approach Does Not Help with Drinking Problems

Rob Wipond
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A commonly-used counseling technique for people with substance abuse issues “may be of limited benefit” to youth, according to a systematic review published in The Cochrane Library. “Researchers found that an approach known as motivational interviewing did not substantially reduce drinking or alter alcohol-related behaviour,” stated a press release about the study.

The researchers reviewed evidence from 66 trials of motivational interviewing involving a total of 17,901 young people aged 25 and under. Many of the studies involved youth at high risk for alcohol-related problems, and youth attended either one individual counseling session, group sessions, or a mixture of group and individual sessions.

Four months later, “on average participants who had counselling had about 1 and a half fewer drinks per week compared to those who had no counselling. (12.2 drinks compared with 13.7),” stated the press release. “The effect of counselling on the number of drinking days was also very small: 2.57 days per week compared to 2.74 in untreated people.”

“The results suggest that for young people who misuse alcohol there is no substantial, meaningful benefit of motivational interviewing,” said lead researcher David Foxcroft of Oxford Brookes University in the press release. “The effects we saw were probably too small to be of relevance to policy or practice.”

Counselling has limited benefit on young people drinking alcohol (Oxford Brookes University Press Release on Wiley, August 20, 2014)

Motivational interviewing for alcohol misuse in young adults (The Cochrane Library (Foxcroft, David R et al. Published Online August 21, 2014. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007025.pub2)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

10 COMMENTS

  1. You couldn’t tell me to stop when I was that age. Total abstinence ? Ya right , never drink again.

    This is a tough one , maybe they could teach them stay out of trouble or moderation strategies for drinking until it kicks there butt enough physically and mentally and they want to quit ?

    • Getting rid of poverty, especially in kids and teenagers is also a good way. In the communist times in Poland there were state sponsored “culture houses” where youth could go and play sports, games, make art etc. You hardly saw kids drinking on the streets. In the good capitalist times they all got closed down save for few and you see the same youth standing on street corners with bottles full of alcohol.