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In-Person! Adolescents and Substance Abuse: What We Are Doing and What We Can Do Better Using Evidence-Based Research to Foster Connectedness and Effectiveness for Youth in Need

Wednesday, December 14, 2022 @ 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

While the majority of opioid overdoses and deaths in the United States are in the transitional age youth or emerging adult population (18-26 years old), overwhelmingly those who develop Substance Use Disorders (or SUDs) began their substance usage in their early to middle adolescent years. Interventions designed for young adults dealing with opioid and other SUD concerns are costly, reactive, and in short supply. Proactive and prevention-focused programs targeting adolescents in middle and high schools, led by trained clinicians in schools and in the community, have much greater potential of addressing the scourge of substance abuse and related mental health concerns in an effective manner. Unfortunately, historically mental health training programs have not required students to learn about substance abuse assessment and intervention, as it has not been a part of the licensure process (with the exception of those working towards an LMHC license and those specifically studying to be substance abuse counselors).

Our next generation of clinicians need to be much more familiar with individual, group, and system-wide interventions, as well as relevant family- and community-based interventions, to be more effective at helping pre-initiation and early-initiation youth related to substance using behaviors. Many individuals with mental health concerns are also impacted by challenges linked to the use and abuse of legal and illicit substances. Due to additional stress from the COVID-19 pandemic there has been an increase in substance abuse by young people and adults and the need for psychological support in this area has grown even greater. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of clinicians equipped to deliver these needed services, both on the assessment and the intervention sides of the equation, especially for younger clients in the community, as the majority of clinicians trained to address dual-diagnosis concerns focus on adult patients or clients.

Youth from traditionally underserved populations are at even greater risk, especially if there are language and cultural barriers not being addressed by providers who are limited in their training in these areas. One of the best places to reach these at-risk youth is via use of screening and interventions at schools, if there is proper awareness and training of evidence-based intervention tools and strategies designed in particular to help youth. More needs to be done at the high school age level (in schools and in the community) to help clinicians be better trained to assess and treat risk behaviors, before full substance use disorders develop, and greater awareness of screening tools for use in schools along with knowledge of ways to foster cultural/community connectedness can also prove key in helping reduce adolescent early initiation and usage rates. 

Historical and recent psychological research has told us that youth who are “feeling connected” (e.g., school-, community-, cultural-connectedness) and supported have lower rates of risk engagement with a variety of self-destructive acts, including substance usage. Historically, many schools have offered frontal education programs on risks of substance abuse that have limited lasting impact, have punishment-based interventions in place for students engaging in substance abuse behaviors, and reactive responses after problems have already developed. Evidence-based community-efforts have existed to address these issues as well but clear dissemination of “best practices” has not always occurred in the most effective manner.

None of these foster connectedness as effectively as is needed, and research has shown that proactive, preventative, and interactive models that promote resilience have a better chance of helping adolescents address their mental health and behavioral concerns more effectively than choosing to self-medicate. Historically there are also some concerns about researchers, agency supports, school-based and community-based practitioners not always communicating clearly with one another and this is never a good thing if we want to help these youth have the best chance of getting the support they need to become more resilient in the face of substance abuse risks and SUD-related challenges. 

In this session we will look at methods and practices useful to decrease substance use risk of youth in schools and in the community from an overview perspective by looking at up-to-date, evidence-based research on motivations behind youth substance abusing behaviors and on strategic assessment and programmatic options designed to effectively address these concerns. We will also examine evidence-based ways of gaining information on key bilingual and bicultural factors impacting adolescent risk and protective factors, and the connectors to substance abuse risk in particular. We will also touch on ways mental health professionals, can make the best combined use of substance abuse research and screening tools (e.g., CRAFFT-II, SASSS, ASAGC) and cultural values measures (e.g., Bicultural Self-Efficacy Scale, Cultural Values Scale) to help adolescents in need. The hope is that participants will leave this training with awareness of key directions to movie in to adopt strategies that can actually be used in schools and in the field to begin the crucial process of more effectively addressing substance abuse challenges facing our students, in terms of proactive and protective treatment options. 

This training is designed to be interactive, informative, and (hopefully) fun for participants. Looking forward to seeing you! 

Learning Objectives: 

The session will help participants… 

  • Learn about strategic evidence-based substance abuse intervention options for adolescents.
  • Understand school-based and community-based prevention options for opioid and other substance abuse concerns.
  • Begin to plan ways to help mental health providers utilize evidence-based and effective substance abuse assessments with adolescents in school-based settings and via community-interventions.
  • Gain familiarity with interventions that foster connectedness for adolescents to help facilitate engagement in behavioral change initiatives.

 About the Speaker:

Daniel B. Jacobs, Ed.M., M.B.A., Psy.D. 

Dr. Dan Jacobs is a licensed psychologist and health service provider in Massachusetts with extensive clinical and consulting experience working with children and adults with mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral concerns in school, hospital, and community-based settings. He is an Associate Professor at William James College in Newton, MA, in WJC’s School Psychology Department, and he also teaches in WJC’s Organizational Leadership Psychology Department. He was formerly the Director of Adolescent and Adult Partial Hospital Programs at NSMC/Salem Hospital in Salem, MA, therapeutic programs that helped adolescents and adults (and their families) with mental health and dual diagnosis concerns. He developed the program curriculum and integrated behavioral, cognitive behavioral, and strength-based theories and interventions in the assessment stage and into the daily workings of the program to help participants achieve positive behavioral change. Dr. Jacobs also works in private practice in Waltham, MA and leads professional trainings and consults nationally around issues of behavioral change relevant to children, adolescents and their families dealing with mental health and/or substance abuse concerns. Dr. Jacobs conducts pre-screening and Fitness for Duty (FFD) clinical interviews for police officers and police department applicants, as well as for fire department applicants, and conducts therapy with first responders impacted by substance abuse concerns.

Dr. Jacobs has presented multiple times on substance abuse assessment and interventions at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) national annual conferences, and has presented at the New England Psychological Association (NEPA), Kansas Association of School Psychologists (KASP), and New Hampshire Association of School Psychologists (NHASP) annual conferences on this topic as well. He is a member of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), the Massachusetts School Psychologists Association (MSPA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and APA—Division 18: Psychologists in Public Service, Police and Public Safety, APA—Division 25: Behavior Analysis, APA—Division 50: The Society of Addiction Psychology, and The Society for Police and Criminal Psychology. Dr. Jacobs also recently became the co-chair of APA Division 50’s Education and Training Committee. In 2019 he also had a chapter published on this topic, “Schools, substance abuse, and psychology: Addressing adolescent substance abuse in the school setting”, in Lessons from School Psychology: Practical strategies and evidence-based practice for professionals and parents (Routledge Press).  





Wednesday, December 14, 2022
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Center for Professional Development
View Organizer Website


In-Person! Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center
219 Littleton Road
Westford, 01886  United States
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