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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: May 2010

15 - Educational interventions for alcohol use disorders

from Part III - Specific treatments


Editor's note

Educational interventions are ubiquitous in psychiatry (see Part II: Chapter 6). They are readily available, inexpensive to deliver, and can be facilitated and disseminated by non-professionals. Educational interventions have long been a staple element of treatment for problems with alcohol. They accompany many of the self-help and complex interventions used in alcohol treatment. While these interventions may be efficient from an economical point of view, they are at best only modestly effective and appear to work best among people with mild to moderate abuse. They also appear to work most effectively when combined with some additional treatment delivered by people professionally trained to deliver services. Overall didactic lectures and educational films appear to have the least benefit.


Education is inherent in most alcohol-related treatment interventions. Physician education about medication is one essential part of pharmacotherapy. Brief interventions provide educational feedback to patients about normative patterns of drinking. Twelve-step facilitation therapy involves educating patients about the disease model of alcoholism and what to expect in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (Nowinski et al., 1994). CBT teaches patients (1) to identify high-risk situations for relapse and (2) coping skills to prevent relapse (Kadden et al., 1995).

Educational interventions are designed to increase knowledge about alcohol in such a way as to change an individual's attitude and behaviour. Providing information about health risks and brief advice emphasizing strategies to reduce consumption are the only interventions that have been recommended for both hazardous and harmful consumption of alcohol.

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