What is Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)?


An evidence-based public health approach to:

  • Identify, reduce, and prevent problematic use, abuse, and dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs
  • Provide early intervention to people at risk of developing substance use disorders
  • Provide treatment services to people with substance use disorders  
  • SBIRT can be implemented by medical assistants, behavioral health technicians, medical providers, or doctors


  • Screening should be universally applied to all patients/clients (18 years and older)   
  • SBIRT can be implemented by medical assistants, behavioral health technicians, medical providers, or doctors


  • Screening can occur in any healthcare setting. Many different types of community settings provide opportunities for early intervention with at-risk substance users before more severe consequences occur, such as emergency departments, community healthcare centers, pain management provider offices, and university healthcare facilities.


Screening - The healthcare professional assesses all patients (18 years and older) for at-risk substance use behaviors using standardized screening tools.

Brief Intervention - If a positive screen: the healthcare professional engages a patient showing at-risk substance use behaviors in a short conversation, providing feedback and advice, utilizing motivational interviewing techniques.

Referral to Treatment - If additional services are indicated: the healthcare professional provides the patient with a referral to brief therapy or for additional treatment.

How long does it take?

5-10 minutes for screening while waiting to see the provider:

  • Two pre-screen questions
  • Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) 
  • Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST)

What is Brief Therapy?

Brief Therapy (BT) is more in-depth than Brief Intervention (BI) and consists of a combination of education, goal setting, and support.

  • The provider ask questions about the patient’s use and personal history.
  • The provider aids the patient in setting goals over the period of a few appointments.

Where can I get more information about finding a treatment provider for myself or someone I know?

You can find treatment services by searching for providers at:

  • To learn how to access behavioral health treatment services in Arizona, please visit:
  • You may also call 1-800-662-HELP, which offers 24-hour free and confidential information (in English and Spanish) on substance use disorder issues and referral to treatment. 

Where can I get more information about SBIRT?

There are a number of sites where you can get more information about SBIRT, including the Arizona SBIRT Facebook page:

Download SBIRT FAQs Here
Other Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Alcohol Can Be Found Here