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Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change


Changing the Conversation

Is it Motivational Interviewing?

12/21/15 10:37 AM | Ken Kraybill | Recovery, Case Management

Motivational Interviewing Changes Over Time

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a “collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change.” With growing recognition of the benefits of using MI in health and human services, organizations are increasingly sponsoring staff training. Typically, these trainings are one-time events lasting between a half-day and two days. After the training is completed, it is not uncommon for participants to state that they use MI in their program.

Of course, the question that begs asking is: “How can we know for sure if we are using an Motivational Interviewing approach?”

Experience and research have shown that while MI training is essential, it is not sufficient. Training itself rarely translates into competent MI practice, just as attending a workshop about playing the violin won’t turn you into a skilled violinist or a virtuoso. As with any clinical approach, becoming skillful in MI requires training accompanied by ongoing practice with accurate feedback and coaching.

People learn Motivational Interviewing best by doing – that is, by practicing the spirit, skills, and strategies of this approach while receiving effective guidance and feedback. Practice alone has limited value. As William R. Miller notes: “Trying to learn a counseling method without feedback is like learning to bowl in the dark…years of practice may yield little improvement.”

With this perspective in mind, how can we ensure that individuals are receiving accurate feedback and constructive coaching as they build their MI skills? While various tools have been developed to assist, the Motivational Interviewing Treatment Integrity (MITI) coding system is most commonly used to:

  1. Measure treatment integrity for clinical trials of MI.
  2. Provide structured, formal feedback about ways to improve MI practice in non-research settings.
  3. Select training options and hire staff.

When used in these ways, the MITI can help us answer the question: “Is it Motivational Interviewing?”

Learn more about using the MITI for coding and coaching in a t3 course starting this May (Fridays, May 13-June 10, 2016, 1:00-2:15 PM EST):

Register Here

Ken Kraybill

Written by Ken Kraybill

Ken has worked in health, behavioral health, homelessness, and housing for more than 30 years. As the Director of Training for t3, he develops curricula and provides training nationally in best practices including Motivational Interviewing, outreach and engagement, Housing First, trauma-informed care, and renewal for care providers. He is also a member of the international Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT).