Using Brief Motivational Interventions instead of Confrontation

Statistics show that there is a far higher than average rate of drinking among college students, especially binge drinking. Using the Stages of Change to assess how ready a college student with a problem drinking pattern is to changing their behavior, but more importantly using motivational interviewing techniques as a brief intervention method to interrupt and change unhealthy drinking patterns was the focus in a recent study at Syracuse University (Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007). The efficacy of Brief Motivational Interventions (BMI) was investigated and evidence indicated that (BMI’s) reduce risky alcohol use (Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007).

In this study the authors hypothesized that Brief Motivational Interventions would be more effective when:

  1. They were ready, according to Prochaska’s (Stages of Change) stages.
  2. They had better self-regulation skills.
  3. They had more awareness of social comparison.
  4. They had lower present time perspective and higher future time perspective.
  5. That women would be more effected by (BMI’s)

(Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007).

The study proved that readiness for change and better self-regulation had a great effect on one’s ability to reduce the number of drinks and reduce blood alcohol content but there was no direct correlation to the use of (BMI’s) as the intervention, it was just simply that they were better at self-regulating and they were ready to change (Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007).

The students that were more aware of social comparison were not as affected by (BMI’s), but over time their social awareness would most likely reduce consumption but not specifically due to the intervention (Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007). What I found most interesting is the student’s that did not have good future time perspective were affected more by (BMI’s) than those that did. Like the intervention caused them to think of future negative consequences they had never thought of before (Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007). The last hypothesis that women would be more affected by the interventions was found to not be true, as it was equally affective among both sexes (Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007).

The most important finding is that Brief Motivational Interventions will promote very effectively the reduction of drinking when used right, regardless of the student’s readiness for change (Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007). Open ended engaging and thought evoking Motivation Interviewing questions will bring about very effective change through brief therapeutic engagement even when allowing the person you are attempting to help full autonomy to not be ready (yet).

In a second study where the authors were exploring if (BMI’s) would have a similar effectiveness in lowering college problem gambling as it did in lowering risky drinking patterns (Petry, Weinstock, Morasco, & Ledgerwood, 2008). The study showed high rates of almost pathological gambling in college students and that 23% gamble weekly or more, and that gambling levels may be effected by Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) and Cognative Behavioral Therapy (CBT) interventions (Petry, Weinstock, Morasco, & Ledgerwood, 2008).

The study like the Syracuse University study on problem drinking showed that if problem gamblers where to be identified and if (BMI’s) were used it would significantly lower gambling for up to 9 months in as high as two thirds of the population (Petry, Weinstock, Morasco, & Ledgerwood, 2008).

Based on the findings of these two studies colleges need to explore the use of regular (BMI’s) for these two problem populations. The students would be more effective in school and many negative side effects from problem drinking and gambling would be reduced. As was mentioned in the study the first thing would be to identify the students currently experiencing these problems (Petry, Weinstock, Morasco, & Ledgerwood, 2008). Using the stages of change to identify those that are ready for change, and finding the student’s that already have better self-regulation skills would by the process of elimination help in identifying the remaining students with these problems that even though not specifically ready for change may be the most affected by (BAC’s) (Carey, Henson, Carey, & Maisto, 2007).


Carey, K. B., Henson, J. M., Carey, M. P., & Maisto, S. A. (2007). Which Heavy Drinking College Students Benefit From a Brief Motivational Intervention? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology75(4), 663-669. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.75.4.663

Petry, N. M., Weinstock, J., Morasco, B. J., & Ledgerwood, D. M. (2009). Brief motivational interventions for college student problem gamblers. Addiction. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02652.x

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