Brief group-delivered motivational interviewing is equally effective as brief group-delivered cognitive-behavioral therapy at reducing alcohol use in risky college drinkers

PLoS One. 2019 Dec 10;14(12):e0226271. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226271. eCollection 2019.


College students are particularly vulnerable to risky alcohol use, which increases their likelihood of developing an alcohol use disorder in the future. As such, preventing and reducing alcohol use among college students should be a priority for health and social policies. This work was aimed to show that brief group-delivered MI is as effective as brief-group CBT at reducing alcohol use in college students. Eighty-nine college students (69 females; mean age = 21.01, SD = 2.85) with risky alcohol use, as measured by the AUDIT-C, were assigned to two groups, receiving three sessions of either brief group-delivered MI or CBT (bMI/bCBT). Alcohol use was assessed 3 and 6 months after the interventions, and analyzed according to an Intention-to-treat design. Changes in alcohol use at both points (relative to baseline) as well as post-intervention scores of intention to continue treatment and satisfaction with the psychologist were compared across groups, using one-sided Bayesian t-tests. Alcohol use decreased in both groups at the 3- and 6-months measurement points (relative to baseline). However, using bCBT superiority as an alternative hypothesis and the absence of such superiority as a point-null hypothesis, the Bayes factors supported the null at both the 3- and the 6-months follow-up (BF01 = 7.13, and BF01 = 5.22 respectively). Furthermore, the intention to continue treatment was substantially higher in the bMI group (BF10 = 9.77). These results are considerably robust to changes in analyses' priors. This study suggests that bCBT is not more effective than bMI at reducing alcohol use in our college student group (in which females are overrepresented). Additionally, bMI showed higher intention to continue treatment scores. The comparable results of brief and group-delivered CBT and MI interventions in alcohol use reduction allows clinicians to select treatments based on their own skills or preferences without any detriment to efficacy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol Drinking in College*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivational Interviewing*
  • Psychotherapy, Group
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Andalusian Council of Health [grant PI-0691-2013]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.