The SBIRT Model Is Easy To Teach About and Easy To Use Adolescent_SBIRT_Logo

By Tracy McPherson and Anna Schlissel

In treating adolescents with SUD (substance use disorders), clinical social workers and social work graduate students have long dealt with a serious barrier: their clients’ resistance to discussing substance use with adults. New solutions to this problem have been identified in the Learner’s Guide to Adolescent SBIRT and a complementary SBI with Adolescents simulation program. These new resources are particularly helpful in assisting instructors to teach graduate students how best to identify and treat adolescents who may suffer from SUD.

The Learner’s Guide introduces a model known as SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment), developed as a community-based screening for risky behaviors. SBIRT, in which the clients are helped to tap into their own motivation for making a life-change, is used in a variety of settings, including primary care clinics, hospitals, and schools. SBIRT has three elements: screening, a brief intervention, and referral to treatment if needed.

NORC at the University of Chicago (an independent research organization) and its partners (among them the Council on Social Work Education and the Center for Clinical Social Work) have created an Instructor’s Toolkit, including the Learner’s Guide, to teach students how to work with adolescents who may struggle with SUD. The Toolkit has companion slide decks and supplemental resources. Each module contains multiple examples of sample clinician-client interactions, and includes practice dialogues and role-plays for mastering the different SBIRT steps. The Instructor’s Toolkit educates students about how to use SBIRT and will serve as an ongoing resource that they can use as they interact with future patients and clients.

The Learner’s Guide is complemented by the interactive web-based SBI with Adolescents (not included in the Instructor’s Toolkit), a conversation simulation that helps practitioners elicit facts about the client’s substance use, as well as techniques for screening and brief intervention.

With funding from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, NORC at the University of Chicago has developed the SBIRT training program with partners Kognito (a digital technology company), American Association of Colleges of NursingCouncil on Social Work Education, the Center for Clinical Social Work, experts in adolescent substance use, and nursing and social work educators. Visit and request an electronic copy of the Learner’s Guide and companion slide deck. Learn more about the SBIRT throughout Social Work and Nursing School Education program at NORC here.


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