A commonly-used counseling technique for people with substance abuse issues “may be of limited benefit” to youth, according to a systematic review published in The Cochrane Library. “Researchers found that an approach known as motivational interviewing did not substantially reduce drinking or alter alcohol-related behaviour,” stated a press release about the study.
The researchers reviewed evidence from 66 trials of motivational interviewing involving a total of 17,901 young people aged 25 and under. Many of the studies involved youth at high risk for alcohol-related problems, and youth attended either one individual counseling session, group sessions, or a mixture of group and individual sessions.
Four months later, “on average participants who had counselling had about 1 and a half fewer drinks per week compared to those who had no counselling. (12.2 drinks compared with 13.7),” stated the press release. “The effect of counselling on the number of drinking days was also very small: 2.57 days per week compared to 2.74 in untreated people.”
“The results suggest that for young people who misuse alcohol there is no substantial, meaningful benefit of motivational interviewing,” said lead researcher David Foxcroft of Oxford Brookes University in the press release. “The effects we saw were probably too small to be of relevance to policy or practice.”