Excessive alcohol consumption is common among college-aged individuals, but the behavior can be problematic. College students who report excessive drinking tend to have lower academic scores than their nondrinking peers and are less physically active. Additionally, heavy drinking can increase risk taking and result in symptoms of depression. Targeting this behavior is a priority on many college campuses. Brief motivational interviewing (BMI) is a technique that is designed to change the way a person thinks about drinking. Rather than placing a high value on the immediate rewards associated with drinking, BMI strives to underscore the negative consequences and puts emphasis on the delayed rewards associated with not drinking, such as higher academic achievement and brighter professional prospects. Unfortunately, people with depression do not respond as well to BMI as those without depression. Therefore, James G. Murphy of the University of Memphis’ Department of Psychology decided to add a novel component to BMI to see if it would result in better outcomes for college students with and without depression.
In a recent study, Murphy recruited 82 college freshmen who had a history of excessive drinking and enrolled them in BMI with either relaxation training (RT) or a substance-free activity session (SFAS) aimed at increasing nonalcoholic activities rather than decreasing drinking. Murphy evaluated the participants prior to the study commencement and again one month and six months after completion. He found that the participants in the SFAS condition had much larger decreases in alcohol consumption than those in the RT condition. He also found that the participants with depression reduced their drinking far more in the SFAS than the RT program. These findings suggest that young people with excessive drinking behaviors may reduce their alcohol consumption more when their focus is on increasing a substance-free activity rather than decreasing use of the substance. Murphy realizes that the sample size in his study was rather small and that follow-up time was limited, but still believes that the results achieved here have significant implications. “The SFAS may be especially effective for reducing alcohol problems by motivating students to employ more protective behavioral strategies,” he said.
Murphy, James G., Ashley A. Dennhardt, Jessica R. Skidmore, Brian Borsari, Nancy P. Barnett, Suzanne M. Colby, and Matthew P. Martens. A randomized controlled trial of a behavioral economic supplement to brief motivational interventions for college drinking. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 80.5 (2012): 876-86. Print.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.