Conversational approaches to alcohol abuse bring results

The reality is the the more invisible the population, such as mothers in prison, are involved, the more elusive the treatment options. As one option, relatively brief interventions have consistently been found to be low cost and effective in reducing alcohol consumption or achieving treatment referrals of problem drinkers. At the least, brief interventions are more effective than no counseling and often as effective as more extensive treatment. Studies have included methods and opportunities for contact with mothers who are pregnant or living with children who have FASD. Contacts engaging brief interventions can be made by volunteers or health professionals in a variety of settings, whether in the clinic or in the emergency room. These encounters can provide motivational support and gain information as to a mother's real needs and wants in terms of changing her consumption of alcohol.

Taking a moment in primary care

One study found that even simple help from a primary care doctor helped 40 percent of hazardous drinkers cut their alcohol consumption to safe levels. And in another study, of people 18 to 49 who consumed unsafe amounts of alcohol each day or week, only 7 percent of them reported that their doctor had asked them to reduce their drinking, and only 14 percent recalled being told about safe drinking amounts. Read the full story

Training Approaches to Brief interventions

There are prevention and health promotion programs available for addressing drinking by mothers who are or plan to be pregnant. But, when it comes to the most vulnerable populations, how many programs are actually within reach for overworked health care professionals and volunteers? Where can they receive training and toward what purpose?

Brief interventions can be a flexible, cost-savings approach that is fluid in terms of where and when the intervention takes place. Some studies show evidence that these interventions have positive effects, particularly when combined with longer term interventions. Some examples include a free online course for youths and a pocket guide on brief interventions for suspected alcoholism for adults available online through the National Institutes of Health.

A training video series produced by the Washington State Department of Social Services is an informal conversation accompanied by a slide presentation by a scientist and a foster mother. It is one of the most informative videos available and should be considered fundamental to any FASD training. It is worth sitting down for an hour.

What Corrections Needs to Know about FASD

An educational video targets criminal court and corrections professionals. The purpose of the video is to raise awareness about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the leading preventable cause of mental retardation, by focusing on the impact of prenatal alcohol exposure to brain functioning and subsequent legal implications. This video can be used at corrections facilities, social service agencies, courts, schools, and other public and private service agencies.
Partners in the development of the video include the Santa Clara County Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Task Force, Santa Clara County Superior Court, District Attorney's Office, Probation Departments, March of Dimes and Jumpcutters Video. Other health education resources are available at

SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to treatment is a prevention oriented and evidenced based approach The goal is to identify those who use alcohol and drugs at high levels in order to reduce and prevent related health consequences. Some studies suggest that use of this brief intervention approach, which is typically administered by a health care provider while patients are waiting to be seen by a physician or other provider, particularly when combined by other approaches, can lead to significant health care cost savings not just in the present but in the future as it can open the door for discussion on significant problems related to alcohol use by mothers or mothers to be in high risk groups.


20 minutes, 5 minutes might be enough

Brief interventions are best served by training in conversational approachs and motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a form of collaborative conversation. It is particularly useful in relating to people who are ambivalent about changing their habits. It is distinctive in that it draws on the participant's own inner resources and supports internal problem solving. This leads to techniques for managing change.

Native American resources

A repository for current American Indian programs and activities that address FASD is a product of a cooperative effort between the Indian Health Service, Maternal and Child Health Program and the Division of Behavioral Health Services, and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).