Simulating Real Life: Enhancing Social Work Education on Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Social work students typically use role play with student colleagues to practice clinical intervention skills. Practice with simulated clients (SCs) rather than classmates changes the dynamics of the role play and may improve learning. This is the first known study to employ the SC model in substance use assessment in social work education. Social work students completed a questionnaire assessing attitudes, knowledge, and perceived skills (AKS) regarding substance misuse prior to completing an online screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment training, and then following role plays with SCs. Paired t-tests indicate increased confidence in substance use assessment and intervention ability, and stronger feelings that routine screening is critical to practice. Incorporating SCs with didactic learning increases students’ self-perceived ability to assess and change client behaviors and reduce substance misuse.