Mental Health, Provider Communication Skills, Substance Use 12.16.2020

Share the joy

Adolescent SBIRT Skills for Health Professionals

Healthcare professionals who work with adolescents and young adults are increasingly expected to have skills in screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT). Learn about the importance of early detection and how current and future clinicians are gaining valuable SBIRT skills, such as motivational interviewing, to improve short- and long-term health outcomes.

Adolescent SBIRT

Healthcare settings are increasingly incorporating SBIRT—Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment—into their practices, and there’s a demand for practitioners and health professionals skilled in SBIRT techniques — especially those who work with young patients.

This push has been bolstered by initiatives and formal recommendations from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and several national and international public health agencies.

In response, many schools of health professions are building adolescent SBIRT training into their curriculum to ensure graduates are prepared for the workforce. Solutions such as Kognito’s interactive SBIRT simulations are an effective way to help current and future health professionals learn SBIRT skills, such as motivational interviewing, so they can best meet the needs of their patients.

Take a demo of Kognito’s suite of adolescent SBIRT simulations.

What is SBIRT?

Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is an evidence-based public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment to people with substance use disorders and those at risk of developing these disorders.

  • Screening – Quickly identifies and assesses the severity of risky, excessive, unhealthy and harmful use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances
  • Brief Intervention – Uses tactics such as Motivational Interviewing (MI) to increase awareness and motivate behavioral change
  • Referral to Treatment – Encourages patients to seek further support from specialists when necessary

SBIRT can be performed by a diverse range of health providers, but is most often used by nurses, physicians, and social workers. The method can be integrated into a variety of care settings (not just those specific to substance use), including:

  • Primary care settings
  • Hospital emergency departments
  • Trauma centers
  • Inpatient psychiatric units
  • Community mental health centers
  • Criminal and juvenile justice settings
  • School-based health clinics
  • Peer and recovery support programs

The importance of adolescent SBIRT

One of the key benefits of using SBIRT in an integrated care model is that it can help detect and treat substance use concerns early, preventing any further damage to physical or mental health.

The developing brain is particularly vulnerable to effects of alcohol and other drugs. Youth who begin drinking before age 14 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse, and a national study found that the younger respondents began drinking, the greater likelihood that they injured themselves or someone else while under the influence.

Case Study on Adolescent SBIRT
Case Study

Reaching out to patients at a young age when it’s most common to start experimenting with substances can help prevent problems before they occur:

Unfortunately, many providers (fewer than half of pediatricians) find it difficult to deliver SBIRT for adolescents, citing lack of training as one of the barriers.

Health students and professionals need SBIRT training. And with full curriculum requirements and busy work schedules, they need training that is both efficient and effective.

Prepare providers to conduct adolescent SBIRT using simulated encounters with virtual patients

Kognito’s suite of behavioral health simulations provides a solution to schools of health professions and health institutions who are preparing future or current providers to address substance use with young patients. The simulations are evidence-based, interactive, and can be completed in 15-60 minutes.

Each of the adolescent-focused behavioral health simulations use roleplay conversations with virtual patients to give users hands-on practice using proven communication techniques such as motivational interviewing — an evidence-based method for driving sustained behavior change. Below is a brief overview of each of the SBIRT simulations.

Adolescent Suicide Risk

Adopted by schools of health professions, state agencies, and professional associations, this online, CE-certified solution helps improve the capacity of health professionals to address mental health and suicidal ideation as part of routine care.

SBI with Adolescents

Developed in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago, this online solution helps improve patient-provider communication and supports the integration of substance use SBI in primary care settings.

SBI with Adolescents: Comorbid Substance Use and Mental Health

Also developed in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago, this simulation prepares healthcare providers to engage adolescent patients with co-occurring substance use and mental health issues.

Experience an adolescent SBIRT simulation

Want to experience the impact of hands-on practice leading important patient encounters? Take an interactive demo of one of Kognito’s simulations.


Explore more articles from the Kognito Blog: 

Recent Blog Posts