VIU’s counseling centre has implemented two online prevention and intervention programs to motivate students to reduce alcohol and marijuana consumption using personalized information about their own drinking and marijuana-using risk factors.
The self assessment tools, called “e-CHECK UP TO GO,” were designed by San Diego State University counseling centre psychologists to increase student awareness of their personal consumption of alcohol and/or marijuana. The comprehensive survey takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.
Michelle Daoust, a VIU counselor who helped implement e-CHECK UP TO GO at VIU, says the program is “about normalizing a fact of life—that many students partake in these activities—and we wish to provide options for them to take the first step at assessing their use and determine if they wish to make some changes. We are inviting students to ask themselves two questions: what is my relationship with alcohol? What is my relationship with marijuana?’” She adds that the survey is completely confidential and no information will appear on the program’s American server. She says that she was drawn to the program because of its effectiveness and because it is an evidence-based self assessment tool.
“It’s a long tool to sit down and complete as most people are used to five minute surveys,” Audrey Park, an assistant at VIU Res Life, says, “but personal reflection isn’t something that can happen in a blink of an eye.”
Park, a Tourism Management student at VIU, has been piloting e-CHECK UP TO GO among students in residence. “The best feeling that our residence’s advisors and I felt after [completing the survey] was that it’s not telling anyone to stop. It tells you ways in which you could cut back your uses or other positive ways to spend your money. It provides judgment-free assessment.”
“This is an invitation to do a deeper exploration of their relationship [with alcohol and marijuana] as opposed to just hearing from pamphlets and brochures ‘stop drinking,’” Daoust says. “That is not particularly effective.” Daoust notes that the survey contains questions which will help students identify life choices, which may lead them to consume or abstain from alcohol or marijuana. “It is just as valuable for students who don’t partake as it is for those who do,” she adds.
Daoust says that students often seek out counseling services when they are worried about a friend’s or family member’s substance abuse issues. VIU’s personalized version of e-CHECK UP TO GO has been embedded with the contact information of on-and-off campus counseling services for students.
“It’s a really important and effective first step,” says Ycha Gil, also a counselor at VIU. She believes that e-CHECK UP TO GO may lead students who are ambivalent towards their use of alcohol or marijuana to ask whether the substances are having negative repercussions on their studies and personal life.
VIU’s implementation of e-CHECK UP TO GO is supported by the Healthy Minds/Healthy Campuses initiative, with funding provided by the B.C. Ministry of Health. VIU Student Services, International Services, Campus Recreation, Cowichan Campus Student Services, Human Resources, and Res Life have also provided funding for the program.
The popular program has been implemented in 600 post-secondary campuses across North America, Australia, and Ireland. To complete one or both of the assessments go to: <www.viu.ca/health/alcoholdrugs/services.asp>.