Identifying effective behaviour change techniques in brief interventions to reduce alcohol consumption

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Brief interventions for treating excessive alcohol use have a small but clinically significant effect but little is known about the ‘active ingredients’. This limits the capacity to develop evidence-based training and assessment programmes for those delivering such interventions and to improve on them. As a first step to establishing this, it is essential to have a consistent terminology for specifying intervention content. Taxonomies of behaviour change techniques that can be reliably applied to specify the content of intervention protocols and published reports have been developed for a range of target behaviours that one seeks to influence including smoking (Michie et al, in press). These have been used to investigate the relationship between intervention content and outcome (West et al, 2010).

This talk will describe the development of a reliable 42-item taxonomy of behaviour change techniques used within brief alcohol interventions and its application to specifying the intervention content of trials reported in a Cochrane review of brief alcohol interventions (Kaner et al, 2007) and to NHS treatment manuals. This taxonomy provides a method for investigating the effectiveness of behaviour change techniques within effective multi-component interventions. Brief alcohol interventions could be improved by a more systematic approach to identifying and applying behaviour change techniques associated with better outcomes.

Kaner, E.F., Dickinson, H.O., Beyer, F.R., Campbell, F., Schlesinger, C., Heather, N., Saunders, J.B., Burnand, B., Pienaar, E.D. (2007). Effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions in primary care Populations. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Michie S, Churchill S, West R (in press) Identifying evidence-based competences required to deliver behavioral support for smoking cessation. Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

West R, Walia A, Hyder N, Shahab L, Michie S (2010). Behaviour change techniques used by the English Stop Smoking Services and their associations with short-term quit outcomes. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 12, 742-7


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Susan Michie