The aim of this study was to identify whether a brief motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioural-based alcohol intervention group (AIG) programme is feasible with young people at risk of developing a problem with alcohol, and to assess the short-term effectiveness of the intervention. Participants were assigned randomly to receive a group intervention of four sessions duration (n = 17; AIG) or no treatment (n = 17, control group). Participants were volunteers recruited from a youth centre on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, comprising youths aged 12-19 years who were interested in participating in the study. The Readiness to Change Questionnaire, items from the AUDIT, the DAP Quick Screen and a knowledge questionnaire were administered at pretreatment, post-treatment and at 1- and 2-month follow-ups. Participants in the AIG programme showed an increase in readiness to reduce their alcohol consumption. They also reduced their frequency of drinking at post-treatment and the first follow-up assessment, while the control group reported increases at the second follow-up assessment. The control group also increased their hazardous drinking and frequency of binge drinking compared to the AIG. The intervention appeared to improve the AIG participants' knowledge about alcohol and its effects. The results provide preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of the AIG programme in training young people to set limits on alcohol consumption, increase awareness of safe drinking levels and the effects of alcohol abuse. This pilot study also showed that young people who are identified as being 'at risk' of developing alcohol abuse, and who are also ambivalent about changing drinking behaviours, can be recruited and retained in a treatment programme.