Purposes: To test the effectiveness of motivational interviewing in a population of hazardous drinkers utilizing community health care centers in rural southeastern Idaho.
Data sources: This study targeted rural people at risk for alcohol dependence utilizing low-income community health care centers in rural southeastern Idaho. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) was used to screen interested clients’ alcohol use. Clients achieving an AUDIT score indicating hazardous alcohol use were recruited into the study and randomized into a control or treatment group. Twenty-six hazardous drinkers attending five low-income community health centers participated in the study. The experimental group participated in one motivational interviewing session with the investigator, a family nurse practitioner (NP). The comparison group received no treatment. Alcohol use was tracked for 6 weeks after successful recruitment into the program.
Conclusions: Participants in the study significantly decreased their average number of drinks per day. At time 1 (pretreatment), the control group drank 4.37 drinks per day and the treatment group drank 4.65 drinks per day. At time 2 (posttest), the control group drank 3.77 drinks per day and the treatment group drank 1.95 drinks per day. The effects of the motivational interviewing treatment on hazardous drinking also were measured by serum gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), a liver function test. There was also a significant decrease in the GGT from pretest to posttest in the treatment group.
Implications for practice: The results of this investigation found that motivational interviewing shows promise as an effective intervention for hazardous drinkers attending low-income community clinics. Although other possible explanations could be postulated for the positive changes in sample participants, the data indicate that the motivational interviewing approach was responsible for a significant portion of the positive changes within the current sample. The information collected from the study adds to the literature on hazardous drinking, research, and treatment of this significant problem. Negotiating change in behavior is part of the practice of NPs. People struggling with alcohol use are more likely to encounter NPs, family doctors, or social workers than counselors specializing in alcohol treatment. Motivational interviewing is specifically designed for preparing people for change. Because most people resist being told what to do, that is, “you have to stop drinking,” use of motivational interviewing principles can decrease resistance and optimize change. Additionally, identifying and intervening with hazardous drinking in a primary care setting can reduce healthcare costs and reduce the stigma of specialist care. Adding this valuable communication skill to the competencies of NPs is important to both clients and NPs.