Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

An Alternative Counseling Model for Alcohol Abuse in College: A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

An Alternative Counseling Model for Alcohol Abuse in College: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Abstinence education remains a prevailing approach for addressing college student alcohol abuse.This case study illustrates an alternative method of intervening that combines motivational interviewing, harm reduction, and a brief solution-focused model. The counseling approach illustrated emphasizes reduction in, rather than abstinence from, drinking behaviors and therefore may be especially useful on campuses where cultural context rejects abstinence and where many student constituents resist engaging in traditional abstinence approaches.

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The negative effects of alcohol abuse on college and university campuses in the United States constitute a recognized public health problem (American Psychiatric Association, n.d.) that often requires planful, deliberate counseling center interventions. Although it is difficult to accurately determine the amount of alcohol consumption by college-age students because most investigations rely on self-report, the results of one study indicated that about 43% of college student respondents reported drinking five or more drinks on a single occasion within the past month (Hingson, Heeren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2005). Furthermore, some of the most important negative effects of alcohol abuse among college students include greater risk-taking behaviors such as (a) driving under the influence, (b) unplanned sexual activity, (c) suffering unintentional injuries, (d) physical and verbal conflicts, and (c) missed classes and forgotten assignments that result in decreased school achievement (Hingson, 1998). In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's (NIAAA) Task Force on College Drinking (Saltz, 2004/2005), nearly 1,400 college students die each year because of alcohol-related events, including automobile accidents. This type of excessive drinking not only has serious potential consequences for the drinking student, but also places others at risk when they are in the proximity of heavily consuming alcohol drinkers (Hingson et al., 2005).

Among the various individual and environmental factors contributing to negative alcohol-related consequences, a person's age during his or her drinking onset appears especially salient (Hingson, Herren, Winter, & Wechsler, 2003). Specifically, the results from a series of meta-analytic studies indicated that the younger an individual is at the onset of alcohol use, the more likely he or she is to engage in unprotected/unplanned sex; experience alcohol-related health and social problems, including alcohol dependence; maintain heavier drinking patterns throughout life; drive while under the influence or ride in a car with someone who is driving while alcohol-impaired; sustain drinking-related injuries warranting medical attention; and drive after consuming five or more drinks (Hingson, Heeren, Winter, et al., 2003; Hingson, Heeren, Zakocs, Winter, & Wechsler, 2003). Furthermore, results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Applied Studies, 2006) revealed that over 49% of survey participants between the ages of 21 and 23 years reported binge drinking, which was a higher percentage than that reported for any other age group in the survey. In addition, the survey results confirmed previous findings from 2002, which revealed that college students were more likely than their noncollegiate peers to adopt heavy and bingeing alcohol consumption patterns. Moreover, it appears that college students who began drinking earlier in life developed faulty beliefs regarding their drinking; that is, they believed incorrectly that heavy alcohol consumption did not increase their own, individual risk of negative consequences when they engaged in risky behavior (Hingson, Heeren, Zakocs, et al., 2003). In particular, in their research findings about college-age students (18-24 years), Hingson et al. (2005) noted that 31.4% of participants reported driving under the influence of alcohol, which equates to nearly 2. …

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