The efficacy of motivational interviewing as a brief intervention for excessive drinking: a meta-analytic review

Eirini I Vasilaki, Steven G Hosier, W Miles Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


AIMS: (1) To examine whether or not motivational interviewing (MI) is more efficacious than no intervention in reducing alcohol consumption; (2) to examine whether or not MI is as efficacious as other interventions.

METHOD: A literature search followed by a meta-analytic review of randomized control trials of MI interventions. Aggregated between-group effect sizes and confidence intervals were calculated for each study.

RESULTS: Literature search revealed 22 relevant studies, of which nine compared brief MI with no treatment, and met methodological criteria for inclusion. In these, the aggregate effect size was 0.18 (95% C.I. 0.07, 0.29), but was greater 0.60 (95% C.I. 0.36, 0.83) when, in a post-hoc analysis, the follow-up period was three months or less. Its efficacy also increased when dependent drinkers were excluded. There were nine studies meeting methodological criteria for inclusion which compared brief MI with another treatment (one of a diverse set of interventions), yielding an aggregate effect size of 0.43(95% C.I. 0.17, 0.70). The literature review pointed to several factors which may influence MI's long-term efficacy effectiveness of MI.

CONCLUSIONS: Brief MI is effective. Future studies should focus on possible predictors of efficacy such as gender, age, employment status, marital status, mental health, initial expectations, readiness to change, and whether the population is drawn from treatment-seeking or non-treatment-seeking populations. Also, the components of MI should be compared to determine which are most responsible for maintaining long-term changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328–335
Number of pages8
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


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