Evaluating the benefits of brief intervention

How do you evaluate the benefits of providing a brief intervention in helping clients access other services?

When a client first comes to the agency with an issue, they will come with what is known as a presenting issue or problem. This is the issue that is either the major one in their perception at the time they seek support, or the one that they are prepared to deal with or divulge at the time.

Presenting problems or issues are likely to be requests for one of the following services:

  • child protection
  • family or social problem
  • protection from domestic violence
  • legal support
  • social housing/accommodation
  • personal/life issue–depression/loneliness
  • employment
  • material aid.

However, clients often have secondary or multiple problems that cannot possibly be dealt with in a short time frame. These non-presenting or secondary problems or issues are likely to be one or more of the following:

  • alcohol and other drugs
  • mental illness
  • developmental disability
  • acquired brain injury
  • abuse and risk of abuse
  • domestic violence
  • homelessness/inadequate housing
  • unemployment
  • juvenile justice issues
  • communicable disease
  • financial difficulties
  • new arrival in the country (on a protection visa which is about to expire).

Although your agency will need to refer the person on to another agency to meet their presenting needs you and/or your supervisor may decide that a brief intervention is required before the referring agency picks up the case.

The purpose of a brief intervention is to provide the client with immediate support which will most likely focus on providing de-escalation of the problem and emotional support.

Brief intervention

Brief intervention has the following characteristics:

  • It is usually a one-to-one approach.
  • It takes a short period of time.
  • It can be done by anyone in the team.
  • It is opportunistic in that it provides an opportunity to relieve (but not necessarily resolve) the situation in the short term.

Brief intervention strategies may be applied in a number of situations:

  • to aid the transition of a client being referred to another agency
  • to meet emergency or crisis–led needs, to minimise risk
  • to support a client moving from one stage to another
  • to provide interim resources when long-term resources are limited.

Brief intervention is a client-led process that focuses on what the client sees as meeting their immediate needs.

For example:

  • Being a listening board for the client so that they can speak about what is troubling them without judgement.
  • Providing material aid or a food parcel.
  • Providing support to get to an appointment – doctor, court, legal aid, Centrelink, job interview
    Support could include:
    • transport
    • clothing
    • advocacy
    • a small amount of money.

In some cases brief intervention can be used for:

  • harm reduction
  • facilitating behaviour change in the short term, e.g. calm anger or fear-based behaviour
  • respite, e.g. time out for the client, parents or carers.

As mentioned earlier, brief intervention is a short-term process by definition, aimed at relieving the client’s perceived immediate needs and facilitating their being able to access other services more easily.

The way to evaluate whether brief intervention is appropriate is to ask:

  • Is it short-term (one-off) support?
  • Can I (the worker) and/or the agency provide that support?
  • Will it relieve the client’s situation or help the client to access other services?
  • Is the client asking for it?
Last modified: Thursday, 5 September 2013, 1:17 PM