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Effective Treatment for College Students

Though the evidence for brief and early interventions for college students is well-documented, the research surrounding effective methods of dealing with more severe student alcohol problems is limited. Because college students are in a unique developmental phase and specific social, environmental, and psychological influences inform their drinking behaviors, existing models of adult and adolescent treatment may not be applicable. In the absence of these evidence-based, college-specific treatment models, we can use theoretically-based treatment frameworks as a lens through which to view college treatment issues.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has put forth a model for providing treatment referred to as a continuum of care. In this model, different levels of treatment (e.g. early intervention, outpatient therapy, or aftercare services) are matched with corresponding levels of risk. This framework can be used in concert with the Institute of Medicine recommended stepped care approach in which individual treatment services are gradually intensified or discontinued based on the outcome of previous efforts. Viewing treatment as a continuum allows practitioners and health service workers the flexibility to consider not only the severity of students’ alcohol problems but their readiness to change – considerations that have proven integral to the successful treatment of college students.

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