AIMS: To test the feasibility, acceptability and initial effectiveness of a text message-based aftercare treatment programme among alcohol outpatients.
METHODS: Clients treated for alcohol use disorders from three Swiss outpatient alcohol treatment centres were invited by their counsellors to participate in a study testing an interactive aftercare programme employing the use of text messages and personal phone calls. Fifty study participants were randomly assigned to either the 6-month aftercare programme (n = 25) or treatment as usual (n = 25). The intervention consisted of (a) monitoring of self-selected drinking goals at regular intervals, (b) motivational text messages to stick to self-selected drinking goals and (c) proactive telephone calls from counsellors when participants neglected to stick to their drinking goals or expressed a need for support. Follow-up interviews were conducted 6 months after randomization.
RESULTS: Throughout the programme, participants received a total of 421 text message prompts. Out of these, participants provided valid replies to 371 (88.1%) within 48 h. Out of the 25 participants in the intervention group, 11 (44.0%) sent at least one call-for-help reply. Based on complete case data, at risk alcohol use at follow-up was 41.7% in the control group and 28.6% in the intervention group (OR = 0.56, 95% CI = 0.16-1.95, P = 0.36).
CONCLUSIONS: The interactive low-intensive aftercare programme was well accepted by the participants. Testing its efficacy within an adequately powered randomized controlled trial might be reasonable.