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The current study explored the temporal pathways of change within two treatments, the Healthy Activity Program (HAP) for depression and the Counselling for Alcohol Problems (CAP) Program for harmful drinking.
The study took place in the context of two parallel randomized controlled trials in Goa, India. N = 50 random participants who met a priori criteria were selected from each treatment trial and examined for potential direct and mediational pathways. In HAP, we examined the predictive roles of therapy quality and patient-reported activation, assessing whether activation mediated the effects of therapy quality on depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) outcomes. In CAP, we examined the predictive roles of therapy quality and patient change- and counter-change-talk, assessing whether change- or counter-change-talk mediated the effects of therapy quality on daily alcohol consumption.
In HAP, therapy quality (both general and treatment-specific skills) was associated with patient activation; patient activation but not therapy quality significantly predicted depression outcomes, and patient activation mediated the effects of higher general skills on subsequent clinical outcomes [a × b = −2.555, 95% confidence interval (CI) −5.811 to −0.142]. In CAP, higher treatment-specific skills, but not general skills, were directly associated with drinking outcomes, and reduced levels of counter-change talk both independently predicted, and mediated the effects of higher general skills on, reduced alcohol consumption (a × b = −24.515, 95% CI −41.190 to −11.060). Change talk did not predict alcohol consumption and was not correlated with counter-change talk.
These findings suggest that therapy quality in early sessions operated through increased patient activation and reduced counter-change talk to reduce depression and harmful drinking respectively.
Brief interventions can be efficacious in changing alcohol consumption and increasingly take advantage of the internet to reach high-risk populations such as students.
To evaluate the effectiveness of a brief online intervention, controlling for the possible effects of the research process.
A three-arm parallel groups design was used to explore the magnitude of the feedback and assessment component effects. The three groups were: alcohol assessment and feedback (group 1); alcohol assessment only without feedback (group 2); and no contact, and thus neither assessment nor feedback (group 3). Outcomes were evaluated after 3 months via an invitation to participate in a brief cross-sectional lifestyle survey. The study was undertaken in two universities randomising the email addresses of all 14910 students (the AMADEUS-1 study, trial registration: ISRCTN28328154).
Overall, 52% (n = 7809) of students completed follow-up, with small differences in attrition between the three groups. For each of the two primary outcomes, there was one statistically significant difference between groups, with group 1 having 3.7% fewer risky drinkers at follow-up than group 3 (P = 0.006) and group 2 scoring 0.16 points lower than group 3 on the three alcohol consumption questions from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C) (P = 0.039).
This study provides some evidence of population-level benefit attained through intervening with individual students.
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