Brief Interventions

What is a Brief Intervention?

Brief interventions are evidence-based practices design to motivate individuals at risk of substance abuse and related health problems to change their behavior by helping them understand how their substance use puts them at risk and to reduce or give up their substance use. Healthcare providers can also use brief interventions to encourage those with more serious dependence to consider seeking more intensive treatment within the primary care setting or a referral to a specialized alcohol and drug treatment agency. (SAMHSA-HRSA, 2013). While originally developed for use with substance use disorders, the brief intervention model is also a useful way to structure brief conversations about health care in general.

Brief interventions can take place in various settings, such as primary healthcare settings, and can be implemented by a variety of trained behavioral and primary healthcare providers. Brief interventions consist of feedback about personal risk, explicit advice to change, emphasis on patient’s responsibility for change, and provides a variety of ways to effect change. Brief intervention techniques include an empathetic style and support for the patient’s perception of self-efficacy or optimism that they can change.  (Colorado Clinical Guideline Collaborative).


Here is an example of SBIRT with a patient involved in an alcohol related accident:

Find out more:

Brief interventions are typically based on the use of motivational interviewing skills; these skills can be learned and applied by a wide range of helping professionals.   There are many methods of training for these foundational skills; some are web, or telephone, based and others are in-person.  In-person trainings provide many benefits when learning a new skill set, so consider using such training initially, with web, or telephone, based follow-up sessions for learning reinforcement.    Follow-up training and skill-building combined with face-to-face training is ideal for optimal learning.

Our interest is in providing practical approaches that can be sustained in practice settings.

Contact us to learn more about our tools, training and redesign expertise.

You're currently browsing a temporary archive of our old website. Looking for our new one?Please visit