National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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Strategies for Engagement

Engaging young people can be challenging; however, prevention discussions are achieveable by using the right language, applying skills to evoke behavior change and understanding of factors that may inhibit a young person’s ability to live a healthy life or access care.

Language Guide

Language is powerful. Words impact the way individuals interpret ideas, perceive intentions and view the world around them. The words we choose to use matter. This is especially true when talking about substance use. That’s why it’s important to use non-stigmatizingperson-first language to reduce stigma and negative bias. This guide, Language Matters When Discussing Substance Use, outlines how to incorporate non-stigmatizing language into your conversations with young people.

Social Determinants of Health

Addressing the many drivers of why someone may use substances is essential to prevention efforts. These complex factors and circumstances that drive substance use are known as social determinants of health (SDOH). An individual’s economic stability, access to health care and educational attainment are some examples of factors that may impact their risk for substance use. Awareness of and focus on these factors can aid in meaningful substance use prevention messaging. Check out Carnevale Associates LCC’s Info Brief to learn more about how SDOH may effect substance use and prevention efforts.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based approach to having a collaborative dialogue with an individual based on their readiness for change. This resource, Motivational Interviewing for Engaging with Youth, highlights some tenets of motivation along with starter scripts to infuse MI into conversations with youth exploring change.

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is one approach to integrating more comprehensive substance use prevention measures into service delivery. SBIRT seeks to idenitify risks for or use of substances at it’s earliest stages. It includes:

  • Screening using a validated tool, to identify an individual’s risk for a substance use disorder.
  • Brief Intervention to raise an individual’s awareness of risks, elicit internal motivation for change and help set behavior-change goals.
  • Referral to Treatment to facilitate access to and engagement in specalized services and coordinated care for individual’s at highest risk of a substance use challenge or disorder.1

SBIRT can be implemented in clinical settings, such as primary care, or in non-clinical settings such as schools or community-based, youth-serving organizations. To learn more about validated screenings tools for youth and SBIRT implementation and training guidance, visit This conversation guide will also provide steps for delivering a trauma-informed brief intervention.


  1. National Council for Mental Wellbeing. (2021, July). Improving adolescent health: facilitating change for excellence in SBIRT. Accessed August 24, 2021.

Social Media Tip Sheet

This Social Media Tip Sheet will support youth-serving providers engage youth through the social media platforms that youth are most likely to use. Developed with expertise from youth themselves, this resource includes best practices for commonly used social media platforms and tips for leveraging each platform’s unique features that appeal to youth.

For additional ideas about how to use social media, check out this webinar recording, Social Media Tips & Tricks: Engaging Youth in Substance Use Prevention.

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $2,000,000 with 100% funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.