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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2013 Aug;81(4):691-701. doi: 10.1037/a0032235. Epub 2013 Mar 18.

The efficacy of single-component brief motivational interventions among at-risk college drinkers.

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Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.



College students are an at-risk population for heavy drinking and negative alcohol-related outcomes. Research has established that brief, multicomponent motivational interviewing-based interventions can be effective at reducing alcohol use or related problems, but less is known about the efficacy of individual components within these interventions. The purpose of this study was to test the efficacy of 2 single-component, in-person, brief (15-20 min) alcohol interventions: personalized normative feedback (PNF) and protective behavioral strategies feedback (PBSF).


Data were collected on 365 undergraduate students from a large Midwestern university (65% women; 89% White) who were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions: PNF, PBSF, or alcohol education (AE). Participants completed measures of alcohol use, alcohol-related problems, social norms, and protective behavioral strategies.


Results indicated that the PNF intervention was efficacious relative to the other conditions at reducing alcohol use and that its effects at 6-month follow-up were mediated by changes in perceived norms at the 1-month follow-up. The PBSF intervention was not efficacious at reducing alcohol use or alcohol-related problems.


These findings provide support for the efficacy of an in-person PNF intervention and theoretical support for the hypothesized mechanisms of change in the intervention. Implications for researchers and clinicians are discussed.

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