Brief Counseling in ER Can Cut Teen Violence

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A study at the University of Michigan suggests that brief counseling in ER can cut teen violence. The study suggests that a 30-minute session can do wonders to kids by preventing at least one violent episode in the future.

Doctors briefly chatted with teens at ER to reduce violence

Doctors Maureen Walton and Rebecca Cunningham from the University of Michigan and co-authors conducted a randomized controlled trial at Hurley Hospital in Flint, Mich. They studied more than 3,300 patients' ages 14 to 18 years admitted to Hurley's Emergency Department between noon and 11 p.m., seven days a week from September 2006 to September 2009.

"We aimed to provide a brief intervention during the time that teens are in the emergency department to decrease their future violence and alcohol misuse over the next several months," said Dr. Cunningham.

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"We randomly assigned them to three conditions, one was a therapist brief intervention, the second was a brief intervention delivered exclusively by a computer with audio and the third condition was a usual care control condition where they got a brochure," Dr. Walton said. "The therapist brief intervention showed twice the reduction in peer violence, peer victimization and violence consequences than the control."

Cunningham noted that the computer intervention also had a positive impact. "The computer intervention alone decreased the teens alcohol related problems such as missing school, their problems with their family related to alcohol misuse for up to six months following an ER visit," she said.

Walton stated. "You ask open-ended questions as opposed to telling them what to do, what do you think about that and then following that you talk to them and give them some tools for different situations."

"It's important as we talk to teens to help them realize that there are ways that it's possible to change behaviors and it's possible to stay out of and get out of risky situations that they may encounter," Cunningham said. Both researchers concluded that brief counseling in ER can cut teen violence.

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