Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Preliminary study of alcohol problem severity and response to brief intervention.



Findings have been mixed as to whether brief intervention (BI) is appropriate and effective for individuals with more severe alcohol use problems. Motivation to change drinking has been supported as a mechanism of behavior change for BI. This exploratory study examined aspects of motivation as mechanisms of clinical response to BI and alcohol problem severity as a moderator of treatment effects.


Non-treatment-seeking heavy drinkers (average age = 35 years; 57% male) were randomized to receive BI (n = 27) or attention-matched control (n = 24). Three indices of motivation to change were assessed at baseline and post-intervention: importance, confidence, and readiness. Moderated mediation analyses were implemented with treatment condition as the focal predictor, changes in motivation as mediator, 1-month follow-up drinks per day as the outcome, and an alcohol severity factor as second-stage moderator.


Analysis of importance displayed a significant effect of intervention condition on importance (p < 0.003) and yielded a significant index of moderated mediation (CI - 0.79, - 0.02), indicating that the conditional indirect effect of treatment condition on drinking through importance was stronger for those with higher alcohol severity. For all motivation indices, alcohol severity moderated the effect of post-intervention motivation levels on drinking (p's < 0.05). The direct effect of treatment condition on drinking was not significant in any model.


Findings highlight the relevance of considering one's degree of alcohol problem severity in BI and alcohol screening efforts among non-treatment seeking heavy drinkers. These nuanced effects elucidate both potential mechanisms and moderators of BI response. Trial registration NCT04710095. Registered January 14, 2021-retrospectively registered, .

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View