STAGE 4. Selecting the theoretical approach

What steps should be completed?

Step 1: Select the theoretical approach or approaches on which the intervention will be based


What are their bases?

Controlled drinking programmes are based on the idea that a minimally controlled alcohol consumption, where certain response parameters (intensity, duration and frequency) and certain associated behaviours are modified, can help reduce the damage associated with alcohol abuse. These programmes are aimed at people who have not considered abstinence or who have repeatedly failed in previous attempts to achieve it.

These programmes establish moderate and controlled alcohol consumption as the purpose of treatment, leaving open the possibility that the subject chooses abstinence during the follow-up. Controlled consumption is not guided only by immediate contingencies, but also by the individual's assessment of the consequences (probability and magnitude), delayed in time, of ingestion of a certain amount of alcohol.

Practical implications

These programmes prevent the frustration that many people feel when they perceive that the only solution offered by the care services to solve their alcohol problem is to eliminate consumption for life. They allow a greater number of people to be recruited than programmes based exclusively on abstinence, they are relatively short and not very costly, and once a certain degree of control over consumption is established, the goal of abstinence can be considered. The central feature of this type of treatment is training in self-control of alcohol consumption.

The practical characteristics of these programmes include:

  • The existence of a flexible consumption pattern, depending on the circumstances.
  • People learn to manage the desire to drink when faced with certain environmental situations and emotional states.
  • They enhance the ability to stop or slow consumption in situations where there is incitement to drink excessively.
  • In the event of an episode of excessive consumption, the risks and damage suffered can be assessed and the person’s future behaviour altered.