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A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Bibliotherapy for Alcohol Problems

Apodaca, Timothy R., Miller, W.R. (2003). A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Bibliotherapy for Alcohol Problems. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 59(3), 289-304.

There has been increased interest in the use of brief interventions and the delivery of alcohol treatment services through nonspecialist health care settings. One possible resource for reaching untreated individuals is "bibliotherapy." The provision of self-help materials to motivate and guide the process of changing drinking behavior. Research on the effectiveness of self-help materials for problem drinkers has been done for three decades. This report summarizes a meta-analytic review of 22 studies evaluating the effectiveness of such self-help materials. Each study was rated on 12 methodological quality of studies was generally high relative to other treatment-outcome studies. Modest support was found for the efficacy of self-help materials in decreasing at-risk and harmful drinking. The weighted mean pre/post-effect size for bibliotherapy was .80 with self-referred individuals seeking help for drinking problems, and .65 for individuals identified through health screening. Between-group comparisons of bibliotherapy with no-intervention controls appear to have a small to medium effect, with a weighted mean effect size of .31 with self-referred drinkers; effect size was more variable in opportunistic interventions based on health screening. Finally, between-group comparisons of effects on drinking of bibliotherapy versus more extensive interventions yielded effect size values near zero. These findings provide support for the cost-effective use of bibliotherapy with problem drinkers seeking such help to reduce their consumption, and to a lesser extent with drinkers who are identified through screening as at risk.