Thirty minutes of counseling during an emergency room visit can decrease a young person’s involvement in future violent behaviors, researchers at the University of Michigan have found.
Researchers from the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center and the U-M Injury Center found that a single, structured counseling session delivered to high-risk youth by a social worker-level therapist was successful in decreasing violent aggression among participants in the two-months following the study period, as well as raising their confidence that they could avoid a fight in the future. Both centers are funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Violence has been the leading cause of death among urban youth for well over the past decade,” said Dr. Patrick Carter, the lead author of the study and an emergency physician and assistant professor in the Injury Center. “Emergency departments are a key contact point for accessing at-risk youth in urban communities, and identifying and intervening with these youth has the potential to alter their future trajectory to one that avoids violence involvement, and thus impacts their overall health by decreasing their risk of violent injury and death.”
The researchers from the School of Public Health and Medical School enrolled 409 youth from two high-risk neighborhoods in Flint, Mich. These were young men and women ages 14 to 20 who from October 2011 to March 2015 used the Hurley Medical Center emergency department for medical or injury-related care.
Participants in one neighborhood received the 30-minute brief intervention and a brochure of community resources. Those in the comparison neighborhood only received the brochure. Two months after the emergency department visit, those receiving the intervention reported a 10 percent lower rate of aggressive violence behaviors than youth who did not receive the counseling, and reported a positive increase of almost 8 percent in their confidence level at avoiding fighting behaviors.
The counseling session focused on strengthening their personal goals; delivering tailored feedback on violence behaviors; conducting exercises designed to explore the benefits of avoiding violence behaviors; conducting role-playing scenarios to develop skills in anger management, conflict resolution and strategies for refusing to carry weapons and avoid violent situations; and developing strategies to make lasting behavioral changes.