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Home > Alcohol treatment matrix cell D1: Organisational functioning - Screening and brief intervention.

Drug and Alcohol Findings. (2020) Alcohol treatment matrix cell D1: Organisational functioning - Screening and brief intervention. Drug and Alcohol Findings Alcohol Treatment Matrix .

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The Alcohol Treatment Matrix is concerned with the treatment of alcohol-related problems among adults (another deals with drug-related problems). It maps the treatment universe and for each sub-territory (a cell) lists the most important UK-relevant research and guidance. Across the top, columns move from specific interventions through how their impacts are affected by the widening contexts of practitioners, management, the organisation, and whole local area treatment systems. Down the rows are the major intervention types implemented at these levels. Inside each cell is our pick of the most important documents relevant to the impact of that intervention type at that contextual level. 

What is cell D1 about?

What is this cell about? In contrast to treatment, screening and brief interventions are usually seen as public health measures. Rather than narrowing in on dependent individuals or just those seeking help, the aim is to reduce alcohol-related harm across a whole population, including those unaware of or unconcerned about their risky drinking and for whom this does not yet constitute a ‘problem’ justifying treatment. Screening aims to spot risky drinkers while for some other purpose they come in contact with services whose primary remit is not substance use. In studies, the typical response to those who score in at-risk zones is from five minutes to half an hour of advice, counselling, and/or information, aiming to moderate drinking or its consequences, delivered not by alcohol specialists, but by the worker the drinker came into contact with – the ‘brief intervention’. Click here for more on typically studied screening and brief intervention activities. 

This cell is not, however, about the content of these interventions (for which see cell A1), but whether implementation and impact are affected by the manner and degree to which the organisation responsible for the programme supports managers, supervisors and staff, and offers an environment conducive to screening and brief intervention.

Though not commonly researched, such issues are crucial. Screening and brief intervention are often implemented at services where harm arising from ‘normal’, non-dependent drinking, and making public health gains, are not naturally seen as ‘our business’. Without a conducive organisational context which makes screening and brief intervention part of the business, this work is likely to be sidelined and/or of poor quality. The not inconsiderable task is to make these activities happen not as discretionary add-ons, but as a routine way to find and respond to risky drinking – even when there are no obvious signs of excessive drinking, even if ‘risky’ means low-level risk, and even if alcohol is not why the client made contact nor the primary mission of the service.

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