Counseling by Phone Effective for Problem Drinkers

Much research has demonstrated that problem drinkers can benefit from even a few short discussions with a doctor or other health professional. However, there are often obstacles to meeting face-to-face.

New research has found evidence that telephone counseling for alcohol problems can be effective. The researchers screened patients in waiting rooms at 18 clinics and contacted those who were identified as potentially having an alcohol problem. About 900 patients were studied, with about half being given telephone counseling while the rest were given pamphlets.

The investigators were surprised by how readily many patients agreed to the telephone counseling. Overall, the men who participated reported a 17% decline in drinking and women reported an 11% decline.

Telephone counseling might be very useful for hard-to-reach patients and also uses fewer resources than traditional counseling. The researchers suggest that "telephone counseling for alcohol problems could help overcome barriers that often hinder access to conventional alcohol treatment such as stigma, transportation, child care and scheduling conflicts."


  • Brown, Richard L., et al. Randomized-Controlled Trial of a Telephone and Mail Intervention for Alcohol Use Disorders: Three-Month Drinking Outcomes. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2007, 31 (8), 1372–1379.

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