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How clinicians can play a role in brief motivational intervention for young adult heavy drinking

Brief motivational interventions (BMI) have been proven to be useful in reducing problematic alcohol use in young adults. Compared to other means of talking about problematic alcohol use, BMI tends to elicit responses that show students are responsive to change.

A study of 167 young adults who exhibited heavy alcohol use included recording their sessions with psychologists as the clinicians used varied approaches to the conversations: either BMI or relaxation training. Motivational intervention consistent skills exhibited by the clinicians included questions and reflections as well as affirmations, support, and emphasis on autonomy of the client. Skills used in the relaxation training were not consistent with motivational interventions and included unsolicited advice and consideration of current techniques used to manage alcohol use.

The response of students to the BMI method were far more likely to show “change talk” and “sustain talk”, meaning that they were able to make plans to fix their problematic drinking and to cope with their behaviors to create change in their lives. This shows that when clinicians encourage clients to be autonomous and evoke statements from the clients that are supportive of change, they can change the language and behaviors of students with alcohol use disorders.

Take Away: Brief motivational interventions by psychologists can evoke change and sustain talk in students experiencing problematic alcohol use, which can change their language use and behavior regarding alcohol.

Walthers, J., Janssen, T., Mastroleo, N.R., et al. (2018). A Sequential Analysis of Clinician Skills and Client Change Statements in Brief Motivational Intervention for Young Adult Heavy Drinking. Behavior Therapy. doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2018.11.003

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