Archive | January, 2014

Clarifying Brief Interventions: 2013 update – beware ‘IBA lite’?

16 Jan

goodIn 2010 the first Clarifying brief interventions briefing mainly aimed to shed light on the differences between ‘IBA’ as simple brief intervention and EBI as Extended Brief intervention. This was in response to an apparent lack of clarity between the two approaches, and perhaps a false assumption that EBI was ‘better’ then IBA as a general approach.

For the 2013 Clarifying Brief Interventions update the focus appeared quite different. Although the IBA agenda has clearly moved on, the focus appears to have shifted to  simpler approaches, or ‘IBA lite’ as posed in the new briefing. These minimal or ‘lite’ approaches appear to reflect the challenges of implementing IBA across front line settings. Using shorter screening tools and providing just a feedback statement + leaflet takes very little time. ‘IBA lite’ also relieves practitioners of the need to offer ‘brief advice’ which may often be perceived as lengthy or difficult. The appeal of IBA lite is therefore obvious.

The briefing however highlights the limited evidence to support ‘lite’ approaches, but accepts that it may be a good starting point. If people are being ‘identified’ and informed of their risk level they are more likely to consider their drinking. But considering one’s drinking and making a change to it are not the same. Behaviour change is often much more complex, and the opportunity to further affect the drinker’s motivation to change is lost with ‘IBA lite’.

Take for instance a drinker who after ‘IBA lite’ decides they would like to reduce their risk, but feels it will be too difficult to cut down. They are not aware of some very simple strategies that could help them, or that they can change via ‘small steps’ rather than needing to take one giant leap. Helping identify simple strategies or manage expectations are some of the obvious benefits of offering ‘brief advice’.

However, it cannot be said that IBA, as in including the offer of verbal brief advice, is the most ‘superior’ form of brief intervention. Nor can the same be said for EBI including more motivational techniques. The truth is there is still much more to be learned about the effective elements of brief intervention, and it what circumstances they might apply. In Scotland, more emphasis on empathy and motivational enhancement was placed in their national brief intervention programme, although in England ‘IBA training’ has been provided widely and to no common framework.

Future brief intervention research is increasingly focussing on not if, but how it works. This needs particular attention to the challenges faced on the ground. In the meantime, we still need to be aiming for something more than the easiest minimal approaches. ‘IBA lite’ may be a start, but my sense it is probably not close enough to what really helps most drinkers to enact a change in their drinking.

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