Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Adopting a Brief, Web-Based Feedback Approach to Counter High School Drinking: Considerations for Professional School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Adopting a Brief, Web-Based Feedback Approach to Counter High School Drinking: Considerations for Professional School Counselors

Article excerpt

Adolescent drinking represents a significant problem in the United States. According to national survey data, 66% of students surveyed reported alcohol use by the end of high school (Johnston, O'Malley, Miech, Bachman & Schulenberg, 2015). Heavy drinking in high school also is associated with multiple interpersonal, academic, legal, and neurocognitive consequences (Arata, Stafford, & Tims, 2003; Brown, Tapert, Granholm, & Delis, 2000; French & Maclean, 2006). Further, youth who drink heavily during their teen years continue this pattern into college (Kenney, LaBrie, & Hummer, 2010) and early adulthood (D'Amico, Elickson, Collins, Martino, & Klein, 2005) and are at risk for developing alcohol dependence (Hingson, Heeren, & Winter, 2006). High rates of drinking, coupled with concurrent and future consequences, point to the need for developing effective intervention programs for high school students.

National survey data indicate alcohol use increases substantially from the 10th to 12th grade (Johnston et al., 2015), including increases in lifetime prevalence of alcohol use and drunkenness, past 30-day alcohol use, and binge drinking in the past 2 weeks. The escalation in drinking from 10th to 12th grade suggests that high school juniors and seniors are particularly vulnerable to the risks associated with drinking. Thus, the transition to the junior and senior years represents an important time for prevention and intervention efforts targeting adolescent alcohol use. The purpose of this article is to describe an empirically based intervention that may be implemented by high school counselors to reduce alcohol use and the associated consequences among high school juniors and seniors.


The ASCA National Model (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012) was initially developed in 2003 to provide a comprehensive, developmental framework for appropriate professional school counselor roles and responsibilities, student competencies, and program evaluation for school counseling. ASCA explained that the overarching objective of school counseling is "to help students overcome barriers to learning" (p. xi). Within the personal/social domain of ASCA's Student Standards (ASCA, 2004), professional school counselors are called upon to help students "learn about the emotional and physical dangers of substance use and abuse" (Standard PS.C1.8). Due to their unique training in counseling and their responsibility to assist all students in the school setting (ASCA, 2012), school counselors have been identified in the literature as professionals in the school setting that can detect, identify, and prevent adolescent substance abuse (Sikes, Cole, McBride, Fusco, & Lauka, 2009).


Because rates of alcohol use increase as high school progresses, high school counselors need to pay particular attention to alcohol use by juniors and seniors. One explanation for the high rates of alcohol use and heavy drinking in high school juniors and seniors is that this period is associated with a high level of risky decision making and greater autonomy (Albert & Steinberg, 2011; Bray, Adams, Getz & Baer, 2001; D'Amico et al., 2005). Adolescent development is marked by an increase in independence, strengthening of peer relationships, and decision making regarding substance use (Burrow-Sanchez, 2006). Relative to adults, adolescents engage in higher rates of risky behavior, in part due to the desire to seek out novel and exciting experiences (Albert & Steinberg, 2011). Prefrontal cortex immaturity also contributes to the risky decision making seen among adolescents because the prefontal cortex plays a key role in behavioral and emotional regulation and risk evaluation (Steinberg, 2008).

Findings from neuroimaging studies indicate that many social brain regions continue to develop during adolescence, resulting in differences in responses to peer influence and social evaluation that are associated with an increased vulnerability to risky behavior (Burnett, Sebastian, Kadosh, & Blakemore, 2010). …

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