Module 12: working with intoxicated young people: learner's workbook

5.1 Brief interventions

Page last updated: 2004

Safely guiding the young person through the process of sobering up is a major achievement in itself. Having successfully engaged with the young person, you may well be able to move them towards safer drug-using practices. After a person has sobered-up, they may welcome counselling by a staff member and/or a referral to treatment. This is when you can take the opportunity to identify the risk and protective factors indicated in the youth-focused systems model. You may therefore wish to explore the needs and wants of the young person as a method of harm reduction and intervention.

Most frontline workers will be familiar with the concept of 'brief interventions' as an approach for working with young people. A brief intervention takes very little time and is usually conducted in a one-on-one situation. It involves making the most of an opportunity to raise awareness, share knowledge and encourage a young person to think about making changes to improve their health and behaviours.

The intervention can be as brief as 30 seconds or it may involve a few sessions lasting a total of 5-60 minutes. Brief interventions often consist of informal counselling and providing information on some of the harms and risks associated with drug use and/or at-risk behaviours.

Brief interventions can be used for a variety of purposes, including health promotion, disease prevention, early intervention and as a strategy for dealing with problematic behaviours. Brief interventions are considered to be generally effective. However, the outcomes really depend on the young person's readiness to change or absorb the information provided. Brief interventions can take place almost anywhere and anytime.

Brief interventions recognise the fact that many people can benefit from being given appropriate information at the right time. This option works particularly well for young people, as they are less likely to engage in ongoing counselling sessions. Brief interventions are therefore a much less 'traditional' form of intervention option and can be a useful tool for working with young people, who may be impulsive and erratic in their decision-making.

After an episode of intoxication can be a good opportunity to talk with the young person about what happened, and provide information on reducing the risk if they decide to use again.