Original Paper

The Journal of Primary Prevention

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 47-52

First online:

Text Messaging to Increase Readiness to Change Alcohol Use in College Students

  • Michael MasonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Commonwealth Institute for Child and Family Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University Email author 
  • , Eric G. BenotschAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • , Thomas WayAffiliated withDepartment of Computing Sciences, Villanova University
  • , Hannah KimAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • , Daniel SnipesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University

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We tested the feasibility and effectiveness of an alcohol counseling intervention delivered via personalized text messages for college students with problem alcohol use. College students aged 18–23 completed online substance use and mental health questionnaires that served as a screening tool for problem alcohol use. We invited students who screened positive to be randomized to intervention (n = 8) or control groups (n = 10) and assessed them at 1 month after they received their last text message. The intervention group received between four and six text messages daily for 4 days that required brief participant responses during the week following the web-based baseline assessment. Participants in the intervention group could also request booster texts for additional support. We personalized all texts, using data collected at baseline. Using a repeated measures ANOVA, we found that compared to the control group, the intervention group increased in readiness to change from baseline to follow-up (p < .01). Other promising trends were an increase in the intervention relative to the control group’s confidence in their ability to change drinking behavior, and an increase in intentions to reduce alcohol use. These exploratory results indicate that the automated texting program we developed works well with college students and that text messaging as a means to deliver preventive interventions is a promising delivery platform.


Text-messaging Young adults Readiness for change Alcohol Substance use