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Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS)

Blueprints Program Rating: Model

A brief motivational intervention for high-risk college students that uses alcohol screening and feedback to reduce problem drinking, excessive drinking, and binge drinking by enhancing motivation to change, promoting healthier choices, reviewing myths and facts about alcohol, and teaching coping skills to moderate drinking.

Program Outcomes

  • Alcohol

Program Type

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Training
  • School - Individual Strategies

Program Setting

  • School

Continuum of Intervention

  • Selective Prevention (Elevated Risk)
  • Indicated Prevention (Early Symptoms of Problem)


  • Early Adulthood (19-22)


  • Male and Female


  • All Race/Ethnicity


  • Blueprints: Model
  • Crime Solutions: Effective
  • OJJDP Model Programs: Effective
  • SAMHSA: 3.1 - 3.3

Program Information Contact

There are two separate groups that provide training, and costs may differ between them:

George A. Parks, Ph.D.
Caring Communication
5222 150th Place SW
Edmonds, WA 98026
(206) 930-1949

Or Contact:
Jason Kilmer,

Program Developer/Owner

  • G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., DECEASED
  • University of Washington

Brief Description of the Program

Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention of College Students (BASICS), a Harm Reduction Approach, is a preventive intervention for college students 18 to 24 years old. It targets students who drink alcohol heavily and have experienced or are at risk for alcohol-related problems such as poor class attendance, missed assignments, accidents, sexual assault, and violence. BASICS is designed to help students make better alcohol-use decisions based on a clear understanding of the genuine risks associated with problem drinking, enhanced motivation to change, and the development of skills to moderate drinking. The program is conducted over the course of two brief interviews that prompt students to change their drinking patterns. The program's style is empathetic, non-confrontational or non-judgmental, and aims to (1) reduce alcohol consumption and its adverse consequences, (2) promote healthier choices among young adults, and (3) provide important information and coping skills for risk reduction.

See: Full Description


  • Participants at the University of Washington who received BASICS demonstrated a significantly greater deceleration of drinking rates and problems over time in comparison with control participants. These results were sustained at the 2- and 4-year follow-ups.
  • In an introductory psychology class study of binge drinking, at the 6-week follow-up, the treatment group drank significantly less than the control group on all three indices (number of drinks consumed per week, number of times consuming alcohol in the past month, and frequency of binge drinking in the past month).
  • Heavier drinking BASICS participants at Auburn University showed significantly greater 3-month decreases in drinking measures and maintained the reduction at 9 months, but other participants showed no improvement.
  • Fraternity pledges in the treatment condition in a West Coast university showed greater decreases in total weekly alcohol consumption and typical peak blood alcohol concentrations than did pledges in the control condition, but no significant treatment effects were found for quantity of drinks per occasion, frequency of alcohol consumption, or alcohol problems.
  • Among a sample of athletes enrolled in a public northeastern and northwestern university, BASICS significantly lowered the levels of peak blood alcohol concentration as well as the numbers of drinks consumed on a typical weekend during the first year of college. The program appeared to work somewhat better in combination with a parent-based intervention.

Significant Program Effects on Risk and Protective Factors:

  • Perceptions of typical student drinking was found to mediate the treatment effect on drinking outcomes (number of drinks consumed per week, number of times consuming alcohol past month, and past month frequency of binge drinking) (Borsari and Carey, 2000).

Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

The program applies to all youth, but the samples of college students likely include few minorities. The program is equally effective for both genders.

Risk and Protective Factors

Risk Factors
  • Individual: Substance use*
  • Peer: Peer rewards for antisocial behavior
Protective Factors
  • Individual: Clear standards for behavior, Coping Skills, Perceived risk of drug use

*Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.

Training and Technical Assistance

BASICS Practitioner Competencies

The BASICS Practitioners Program Delivery Knowledge and Skills

  • Accurately assess a student’s stage of change
  • ‘Phase’ interventions based on motivation
  • Relate to the student within the Spirit of Motivational Interviewing
  • Use Motivational Interviewing OARS to elicit change talk
  • Use Motivational Interviewing Strategies to respond to student resistance to change
  • Apply the FRAMES Brief Motivational Intervention (BMI) Components, i.e., F = Feedback, R = student’s Responsibility for change, A=Advice by practitioner, M=Menu of change strategies, E = practitioner support of student’s self-Efficacy.
  • Know the BASICS Practitioner Guide contents for Sessions 1 and 2 based on the assessment and feedback application being used
  • Know when to drop the protocol if emergencies arise and what to do next
  • Have professional staff available for on-call consultation
  • Practice BASICS Delivery in Role-plays prior to delivering the program to students
  • Attend group case consultation
  • Obtain frequent supervision as needed for practitioner’s level of training, experience and credential
  • Know and apply all federal, state, and institutional rules regarding confidentiality

Alcohol and Drug Knowledge needed by BASICS Practitioners (Minimum Competency)

  • Alcohol Metabolism: Absorption & Oxidation/Sobering Up
  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and Behavior
  • Alcohol Tolerance as a Risk Factor
  • Self-Monitoring of Drinking
  • Dispelling the “More is Better Myth”: The Biphasic Effect
  • Detrimental Effects of Alcohol on Health & Performance
  • Positive Alcohol Expectancies as a Risk Factor
  • Biopsychosocial Gender Differences
  • Differential Risks and Harms for Men and Women
  • Sexual Assault and Rape Risk and Harm

BASICS Training

Two-Day BASICS Practitioner Workshop (available on-site at location furnished by the client college, university or community agency or by video conferencing). The two-Day BASICS Practitioner Workshop consists of two days of training from 9 AM - 4:30 PM with 6 hours of contact per day for a total of 12 hours of Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) for the entire workshop. Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) require that the sponsor provide an agency accredited in their state to award such credits to participants licensed or certified as healthcare professionals.

  1. Day 1 of the BASICS Practitioner Workshop is entitled BMI 101. BMI 101 covers conducting Brief Motivational Interventions (BMIs) with College Students to train BASICS Practitioners to understand the stages of change, motivational interviewing and how to use the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test) developed by the WHO (World Health Organization) to screen for alcohol problems. BMI 101 includes a demonstration and a guided role-play practice exercise of a BMI called Behavioral Consultation using the AUDIT. BMI 101 is also appropriate for diverse student services or academic staff who want to be more skilled in conducting a compassionate and pragmatic conversation with a college student about their alcohol use or any other behavioral health issue such as drug use, risky sexual behavior, procrastination, unhealthy eating, etc.
  2. Day 2 of the BASICS Practitioner Workshop is entitled Delivering BASICS. Delivering BASICS covers conducting and implementing BASICS using an on-line Alcohol Assessment Survey and Personalized Feedback Report (PFR) selected by the sponsoring agency or school. The Delivering BASICS curriculum is structured by a BASICS Facilitator Guide written by trainers that is tailored to the on-line assessment and feedback application chosen for use by the college, university or community agency. Sites can purchase a license to use the BASICS Facilitator Guide.

Training Certification

Certificates of Completion are awarded to trainees who complete the 2-Day BASICS Practitioner Training. No certification of competency or on-going supervision is available.

Technical Assistance

Consultation services regarding implementation are available at hourly and daily fees. For information about BASICS training, please email Dr. George Parks at

Training Certification Process

One-Day BASICS Train-the-Trainer Workshop

  • One-day of instruction on delivering the BASICS Practitioner Workshop.
  • A site license to use curriculum materials necessary to deliver the BASICS Practitioner Workshop including slides and handouts can be purchased from the trainer.

Brief Evaluation Methodology

The initial study done at the University of Washington (Marlatt et al. 1998; Baer et al 2001) screened high school students intending to attend the university and selected 348 students-to-be who were predicted to be at high risk for drinking problems in college. After random assignment, the treatment group but not the control group underwent the brief intervention during the freshman year. Assessments at baseline, 6 months, 2 years, and 4 years measured both drinking rates and harmful consequences. A separate group of normal students not at high risk was followed for comparison.

Other studies included:

  • a randomized trial of 60 college binge drinkers selected from an introductory Psychology class and followed for 6 weeks (Borsari and Carey, 2000);
  • a randomized trial of 84 Auburn University undergraduates who reported high levels of drinking, were assigned to one of three groups (the BASICS treatment, an educational intervention, or an assessment-only control group), and were followed for 9 months;
  • a cluster randomized trial of 12 fraternities and 159 participants, with a 1-year follow-up assessment of drinking, alcohol problems, and dependence; and
  • a sample of 1,275 athletes enrolled in a public northeastern and northwestern university were randomly assigned to BASICS, Parent Based Intervention (PBI), BASICS+PBI, or control with assessments conducted at baseline (prior to matriculation) and 10 month after baseline (Turrisi et al., 2009).


Baer, J. S., Kivlahan, D.R., Blume, A. W., McKnight, P., & Marlatt, G. A. (2001) Brief intervention for heavy-drinking college students: 4-year follow-up and natural history. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 1310-1316.

Borsari, B., & Carey, K. B. (2000). Effects of a brief motivational intervention with college student drinkers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 728-733.

Larimer, M. E., Turner, A. P., Anderson, B. K., Fader, J. S., Kilmer, J. R., Palmer, R. S., & Cronce, J. M. (2001). Evaluating a brief alcohol intervention with fraternities. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62, 370-380.

Marlatt, G. A., Baer, J. S., Kivlahan, D. R., Dimeff, L. A., Larimer, M. E., Quigley, L. A., ... Williams, E. (1998). Screening and brief intervention for high-risk college student drinkers: Results from a 2-year follow-up assessment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66, 604-615.

Murphy, J. G., Duchnick, J. J., Vuchinich, R. E., Davison, J. W., Karg, R. S., Olson, A. M., ... Coffey, T. T. (2001). Relative efficacy of a brief motivational intervention for college student drinkers. Psychology of Addictive Behavior, 15, 373-379.

Turrisi, R., Larimer, M. E., Mallett, K. A., Kilmer, J. R., Ray, A. E., Mastroleo, N. R., ... Montoya, H. (2009). A randomized clinical trial evaluating a combined alcohol intervention for high-risk college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drug, 70, 555-567.