Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a client-centered, directive method for enhancing intrinsic motivation for change. Motivational Interviewing features an empathic counseling style coupled with proven strategies to manage resistance and help people develop commitments and plans for change

Initially developed as a method to help people change addictive behavior, MI has been shown to be effective for a wide range of problem behaviors including addictions, health-related lifestyle, and treatment adherence. MI can be used effectively as a stand-alone approach to individual counseling, as a prelude to treatment, or as an adjunct to treatment.

In the criminal justice area, MI has multiple applications to the rehabilitation process. Using the MI-consistent portion of the MI process, staff acquire skills to enhance the communication with clients in the criminal justice process in a less confrontive manner which evokes feedback from the client on the reasons and circumstances for their status on probation or incarceration. The full MI process allows staff to evoke and elicit change talk from the client and guide them towards positive and productive outcomes.

After watching agencies implement a variety of interactive conversational curriculums with no viable success, I attended my first Motivational Interviewing course in February of 2007. For the first time, I found a process that improved the quality and content of staff-client interactions and with better outcomes. On a personal level, I attended numerous additional MI trainings; secured a national MI mentor; and earned an opportunity to attend the Motivation Interviewing Network Training (MINT) program offered on an annual basis in Stiges, Spain in June of 2009. This is the highest level of MI training available and universally recognized as the leader in MI with about 700 active members worldwide in the MINT organization.

From a criminal justice standpoint, I have watched the difference MI can make in the culture of an organization. Instead of simply issuing orders, the staff have a common language to use to defuse difficult situations; instead of physical altercations with youth with mental health related outbursts, staff now have a process to empathize and understand the individuals problem and successfully resolve the issue; and instead of telling clients how they need to change and how to change, the staff have tools to evoke and elicit change talk from the client and guide that discussion toward positive community and personal outcomes.

Simply stated, MI can make your organization a more effective criminal justice process with better outcomes related to arrests and recidivism.