Inside the physician's black bag: Critical ingredients of brief alcohol interventions

Paul Grossberg*, Abigail Halperin, Sara Mackenzie, Mary Gisslow, David Brown, Michael Fleming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Brief primary care interventions structured around patient workbooks have been shown to be effective in modifying hazardous drinking behavior. However, the critical ingredients of such interventions are not well understood, possibly contributing to their underutilization. Seventeen campus-based clinicians trained in a brief, workbook-based alcohol intervention participated in a qualitative study to identify the most promising clinician-patient interaction components within this shared approach, utilizing a focus group with the clinicians and ranking of the 24 workbook ingredients. Based on the clinicians' collective experience, consensus emerged around the perceived strength of 5 main components: (1) providing a summary of the patient's drinking level, (2) discussing drinking likes and dislikes, (3) discussing life goals, (4) encouraging a risk-reduction agreement, and (5) asking patients to track their drinking (on cards provided for this purpose). This is the first paper to examine primary care physician perspectives on potentially critical components of effective brief alcohol intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-250
Number of pages11
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Alcohol counseling
  • brief intervention
  • critical ingredients
  • heavy alcohol use
  • high-risk drinking
  • motivational interviewing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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