Background: Alcohol Brief Intervention (ABI) uses a motivational counselling approach to support individuals to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. There is growing evidence on ABI's use within various health care settings, although how they work and which components enhance success is largely unknown. This paper reports on the qualitative part of a mixed methods study. It explores enablers and barriers associated with alcohol reduction following an ABI. It focuses on alcohol's place within participants' lives and their personal perspectives on reducing consumption. There are a number of randomised controlled trials in this field though few ABI studies have addressed the experiences of hazardous/harmful drinkers. This study examines factors associated with alcohol reduction in harmful/hazardous drinkers following ABI.
Methods: This qualitative study was underpinned by a realist evaluation approach and involved semi-structured interviews with ten harmful or hazardous alcohol drinkers. Participants (n = 10) were from the intervention arm of a randomised controlled trial (n = 124). All had received ABI, a 20 min motivational counselling interview, six months previously, and had reduced their alcohol consumption. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed.
Results: Participants described their views on alcohol, its' place in their lives, their personal perspectives on reducing their consumption and future aspirations.
Conclusions: The findings provide an insight into participants' views on alcohol, ABI, and the barriers and enablers to change. Participants described a cost benefit analysis, with some conscious consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of reducing intake or abstaining from alcohol. Findings suggest that, whilst hospital admission can act as a catalyst, encouraging individuals to reflect on their alcohol consumption through ABI may consolidate this, turning this reflective moment into action. Sustainability may be enhanced by the presence of a 'significant other' who encourages and experiences benefit. In addition having a purpose or structure with activities linked to employment and/or social and leisure pursuits offers the potential to enhance and sustain reduced alcohol consumption.
Trial registration: Trial registration number TRN NCT00982306 September 22nd 2009.
Keywords: Alcohol; Behaviour change; Brief intervention; General Hospital; Mixed methods; Motivational counselling; Realist synthesis.