Module 9: working with young people on AOD issues: learner's workbook

6.1 Brief interventions - a definition

Page last updated: 2004

Most frontline workers will be familiar with 'brief intervention' as an approach for working with young people. By 'brief intervention' we mean implementing an intervention that takes very little time. Brief interventions are usually conducted in a one-on-one situation and can be implemented anywhere on the intervention continuum.

Brief interventions recognise that many people can benefit from being given appropriate information at the right time. This option can work 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. The focus of many brief interventions is harm reduction and safer drug use.

It involves making the most of an opportunity to raise awareness, share knowledge and get a young person thinking about making changes to improve their health and behaviours. The intervention can be brief and 'opportunistic', lasting as little as 30 seconds, or extending over a few sessions lasting 5-60 minutes. Brief interventions often consist of informal counselling and information on certain types of harms and risks associated with drug use and/or risky behaviours.

Frontline workers have a responsibility to raise health issues and related behaviours with the young people they are working with.

The aims of brief intervention are to:

  • engage with those young people not yet ready for change
  • increase the young person's perception of real and potential risks and problems associated with AOD use and associated practices.
  • encourage change by helping the young person to consider the reasons for change and the risks of not changing.
Brief interventions utilise many of the skills already covered in this module such as motivational interviewing, problem solving, decisional-balancing and goal setting and requires an understanding of the process of change.