Of the numerous ways to treat alcohol abuse in individuals, there are three that stand out as the most effective. According to a table of cumulative evidence scores compiled by Hester and Miller (1995) of The University of New Mexico, data shows what tends to work best for people… and also what doesn’t work so well. Scoring lowest on the totem pole were educational lectures and films, general alcoholism counseling, and psychotherapy – three of the most commonly practiced means of treatment over the past several decades. However, what seem to have been most effective in treating alcohol abuse are the methods of brief intervention, social skills training, and motivational enhancement.
Why do these approaches work best? Well, let’s take a look at the first one, brief intervention. Since this can be a preemptive technique that’s used to help reduce or prevent alcohol misuse, brief intervention typically shows better results because individuals are being informed of the risks of alcohol use prior to any campus or community alcohol-related offense. The length of the intervention is not what drives change, and being brief reduces resistance to the intervention. Next, social skills training (a.k.a. the behavioral approach) has proven efficient because of its ability to be tailored specifically to the needs of individuals. It can include guidance in communication skills, problem-solving, decision-making, and managing interpersonal relationships. Finally, the third component is motivational enhancement. As an intervention approach, this technique helps individuals resolve their ambivalence about engaging in treatment and decreasing their substance use by using their own personalized feedback. This inspires people to make the change by increasing their engagement in the process. Stimulating discussion about personal substance use and eliciting self-motivational statements strengthen motivation and build a plan for change. Motivation is the number one predictor of change.
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