Examining the efficacy of a brief group protective behavioral strategies skills training alcohol intervention with college women

Psychol Addict Behav. 2014 Dec;28(4):1041-51. doi: 10.1037/a0038173. Epub 2014 Oct 27.


College students' use of protective behavioral strategies (PBS; e.g., determining not to exceed a set number of drinks, avoiding drinking games) is related to lower levels of alcohol consumption and problems. The present study evaluated the efficacy of a novel brief, single-session group PBS skills training intervention aimed at increasing college students' use of PBS and reducing risky drinking and consequences. Participants (N = 226) were heavy-drinking incoming first-year college women randomized to either a PBS skills training intervention or study skills control condition. Participants attended a 45-min group session and completed online surveys pre- and postintervention (1 month and 6 months). We conducted a series of 2 × 2 × 3 repeated-measures ANCOVAs with condition and baseline mental health (anxiety/depression) as the between-subjects factors and time as the within-subjects factor. Intervention participants, relative to controls, reported significantly greater increases in PBS use and reductions in both heavy episodic drinking and alcohol consequences. The intervention was particularly effective in increasing PBS use at 1 month among participants with high anxiety. Further, tests of moderated mediation showed a significant conditional indirect effect of condition on 1-month consequences through PBS use among participants with high levels of anxiety. Findings provide preliminary support for a brief PBS-specific group intervention to reduce alcohol risk among college women, particularly anxious women. Future research is needed to strengthen the long-term effectiveness of the present approach and further explore the moderating effects of mental health.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking in College / psychology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Students / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Universities