Counselling for College Drinking more Effective Face to Face
Tight college budgets often mean there is little money available for alcohol counselling. This has led to many universities using online alcohol counselling to help their students. Unfortunately, new research shows this type of counselling is much less effective than face to face meetings.
These computer delivered interventions or CDI's were the target of a systematic review by researchers. They found that while both CDI and face to face counselling methods were effective, only the face to face approach had a long term effect on problematic drinking. People who received CDI treatment were far more likely to slip back into their drinking patterns after a few months. In fact, after 14 weeks, people who participated in the CDIs had resumed their drinking habits. More importantly, face to face counselling works better even at the beginning of treatment.
That is not to say that CDI treatments are useless. They still had an effect on participants drinking. Plus CDI has the added benefit of reaching a nearly infinite audience. This is particularly attractive to large universities because they can offer treatment without having to hire a large number of counsellors.
"If your resources are limited, and resources always are, and that's all that you can field for your institution, then offering a computer-delivered intervention is better than nothing," said Carey, professor of behavioral and social sciences in Brown University's Program in Public Health and a researcher at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.
"But the question is would your resources allow you to do something better if something better existed," she said, "and we do know now that there are intervention modalities that might be better."
Carey said that the low effectiveness of current CDIs may be due to the programs design. If the computer cannot hold someone’s attention, it is bound to be less effective at treatment.
"Many designers have done reasonable jobs trying to make CDIs interactive for participants," she said, "but one thing that might be missing in these interactions, if somebody is tempted to game the system or if they are just getting bored, is someone on the other side to pull them back in and help them stay engaged."
The research concluded that, while CDIs have value, they may not be good value for money. "You certainly wouldn't want to spend a lot of money to get an effect that only lasts for three months," Carey said.