Group Motivational Enhancement

Impact Score72.7
Students Impacted28%

What is group motivational enhancement?

Group motivational enhancement targets such specific student groups as first-year students and alcohol policy violators. The intervention is a single group session led by doctoral-level clinicians and other staff trained in motivational interviewing (MI). The intervention is designed to build motivation to change problematic drinking behavior and is a variation of the brief motivational intervention (BMI) technique.

The program consists of several components: timeline followback where students report their recent drinking patterns, group discussion to challenge expectancies around alcohol’s social and physical impacts, normative feedback to correct misperceptions of student drinking, information on alcohol, decisional balance exercises, and behavioral goal setting. In keeping with the tenets of brief intervention, feedback on drinking behavior and related risks is delivered in a non-judgmental and non-confrontational manner. Group motivational enhancement groups may be separated by gender.

Research findings

Most of the research to date on group motivational enhancement has been conducted by a single principal investigator—Dr. Joseph LaBrie at Loyola Marymount University in California. In a 2009 study, the intervention resulted in first-year female students significantly changing their drinking behavior, but the effect was not maintained at six month follow-up (LaBrie, 2009). In another study of first-year male students, the intervention significantly reduced drinking behavior from pre-intervention through 3 months of follow-up (LaBrie, 2007). The intervention has been shown to be effective in reducing drinking during the first semester of college and also appears to have a preventative effect, assisting nondrinkers from initiating alcohol use during the first year of college (LaBrie, 2006).

Issues and considerations

Some of the studies on this modality indicate that this intervention may work particularly well for the riskier drinkers. In two studies, those experiencing more negative consequences and those who drank at riskier levels showed greater reductions in drinking behavior. A maintenance or booster session may be required after a period of more than 3-months. When compared with individually-administered BMI modalities, the group setting of GME may help cut costs as it uses fewer resources.

Anecdotally, campuses have reported that judicially mandated students are not resistant to this technique, and have been found to be responsive. When used as a universal strategy to engage an entire first year class, one campus reported that students who were exposed to GME in the first six weeks of the academic year demonstrated more gains in behavior change. Thus, it is perhaps more effective when administered as a protective strategy prior to students’ adoption of new drinking behaviors.

LaBrie, J. W., Huchting, K. K., Lac, A., Tawalbeh, S., Thompson, A. D., & Larimer, M. E. (2009). Preventing risky drinking in first-year college women: Further validation of a female-specific motivational-enhancement group intervention. Journal Of Studies On Alcohol And Drugs. Supplement(16), 77-85.

LaBrie, J., Pedersen, E., Lamb, T. & Quinlan T. (2007). A campus-based motivational enhancement group intervention reduces problematic drinking in freshmen male college students. Addictive Behaviors, 32, 889-901.

LaBrie, J., Lamb, T., Pedersen, E., & Quinlan, T. (2006). A Group Motivational Interviewing Intervention Reduces Drinking and Alcohol-Related Consequences in Adjudicated College Students. Journal of College Student Development, 47(3), 267-280.