A study by University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) says that a brief motivational talk can reduce the chances of teenagers getting violent or experiencing drinking problems.
The conclusion is drawn from the special issue on violence and human rights, which includes the work of UMHS researchers who immersed themselves at the Hurley Medical Center emergency department, in Flint in Michigan for three years.
"Therapists used motivational interviewing which is well-suited for adolescent development," says study lead author Maureen Walton, research associate professor in the U-M Department of Psychiatry, Addiction Research Center said.
"It doesn't preach or tell teens what to do, but allows adolescents to weigh the pros and cons of their choices in reference to their goals," she added.
According to UMHS, the researchers offered help to 726 adolescents, ages 14-18, who complained that they experienced aggression or had a drink of beer, wine or liquor at least two or three times in the past year.
A one-on-one talk with a therapist resulted in a 34 percent reduction in peer aggression. Teens who received only a brochure had a 16 percent drop in aggression over the next three months.
The study showed similar drops in alcohol misuse after teens heard prevention messages delivered by a therapist or while using a role-playing computer program.
"Violence and alcohol use are preventable behaviors and the emergency department can be a key location for reaching high-risk teenagers," senior author Rebecca Cunningham, M.D., an emergency room physician and director of the University of Michigan Injury Research Center said.
The study also focused on computer screening with teenagers, which worked well because of their comfort with using technology. The computer program included animation demonstrating how to handle drinking, driving and conflicts with peers.