Taking Motivational Interviewing Agency-Wide

by Justine Hanson
January 03, 2011

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What would happen if you trained the entire staff of your agency in Motivational Interviewing (MI) skills? What if everyone, from case managers to finance staff, knew how to practice MI?

It will transform how your agency serves people, say Buddy Garfinkle and Nancy Schneeloch of Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The two recently hosted a HRC/PATH webcast on “Motivational Interviewing in Action: Integrating MI Across Your Agency.”

“I believe that MI is the basic core competency for any evidence-based practice,” says Buddy.

Bridgeway’s leadership realized that staff was becoming demoralized and burnt out, often because they were trying to help people change before they were ready for change. Bridgeway began conversations about how MI training might help. MI is a directive, collaborative, person-centered counseling style that aims to help people explore and resolve their ambivalence about behavior change.

Because MI targets ambivalence, it gives staff members the confidence and skills to work collaboratively with a person who is ambivalent about change. MI says that ambivalence is a normal part of human life. Before, staff often would be frustrated and uncomfortable, not knowing what approach to take with a person who was ambivalent.

Bridgeway created a MI Steering Committee to spearhead the initiative. The senior leadership decided to train all staff simultaneously, with a two-day training by an expert trainer. After being trained, staff met every two weeks to review and practice skills, which included role-play in group supervision sessions.

Buddy and Nancy emphasized that all staff, no matter what level of education and experience, have the capacity to learn and use MI. MI has given Bridgeway’s staff a common language. MI is even built into the agency’s progress note templates, which evaluate where a person is in the Stages of Change. All interventions are designed to match the person’s Stage of Change.

Bridgeway says the benefits of agency-wide MI training have had positive impacts across the board. Staff experience report experiencing lower rates of burnout and frustration. In their work with clients, they have more realistic expectations and take time to recognize small successes. People served by Bridgeway report being more actively engaged in their own care, increased hope, and have improved retention rates.

You can view the slides and listen to Buddy and Nancy’s presentation on the HRC website.

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Category: HRC Insight