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Motivational Counseling Aids College Alcohol and Substance Abusers

The college years are often a time of experimentation and rebellion. Students who break university rules on alcohol and drug use in residence halls are often fined, expelled or sent to counseling or educational programs.

A new Rutgers University study finds that brief motivational discussions are effective with results apparent 15 months after initiation.

Results are published in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“Here at Rutgers University, all colleges require students who have violated university rules regarding alcohol and drug use in residence halls to attend three sessions at our Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program for Students (ADAPS),” said Helene Raskin White, professor of sociology with a joint appointment in the Center of Alcohol Studies and the Sociology Department.

While some universities may require an alcohol-education class, others may choose to impose a large fine – such as $300 – which often forces students to tell their parents, and some actually contact the parents.

“The Rutgers ADAPS program was already using an in-person brief motivational interview (BMI) intervention based on the Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students model,” said White, who is also the study’s corresponding author.

“The ADAPS clinicians asked me to evaluate their program. Given that some studies … had found that written feedback was efficacious, we decided to use the written personal feedback condition (WF) as the comparison group for this study.”

White and her colleagues tracked 348 mandated students (209 males, 139 females), randomly assigned to either in-person personal feedback intervention within the context of a BMI (n=180) or WF only (n=168), examining them at four and 15 months after the interventions. Most of the students (88%) were referred for an alcohol violation.

“Students in both groups reduced their drinking and related problems between the baseline assessment and the four-month follow-up,” said White, “and there were no significant differences between the two groups.

However, in the long-term – 15 months post-baseline – students who received the BMI reported less alcohol use and related problems than those who received the WF. Therefore, the results suggest that mandated students may benefit from in-person personal feedback interventions within the context of a BMI.”

White added that her study helps to illustrate that studies that do not follow students for a long time may miss important effects of interventions. She used the term “sleeper effects” to describe clinical improvements that are not apparent right after treatment, but emerge some time later.

“Furthermore, whereas a few other studies using samples of high-risk college student volunteers have found written feedback interventions to be as effective as in-person feedback interventions, our results do not replicate these findings for mandated students. Therefore, in-person interventions may have a special role for mandated students, or alternatively the effects of in-person interventions may last longer than written feedback (which has not been tested in other studies).”

Source: Blackwell Publishing

Motivational Counseling Aids College Alcohol and Substance Abusers

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Motivational Counseling Aids College Alcohol and Substance Abusers. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 17, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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