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.

Interested in being a HRC Guest Blogger? Email us at generalinquiry@center4si.com

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Category: HRC Insight

MI On My Mind

by Ken Kraybill
March 15, 2010

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MI has been on my mind lately. No, not the state of Michigan, but Motivational Interviewing (MI). Steven Samra, Recovery Specialist, and I have been collaborating over the past few weeks on a HRC webcast, entitled "Guiding People Towards Change: The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing." 

The notion of MI spirit can be hard to pin down. We’ve had fun gleaning the literature and thinking creatively about how to convey this concept. In the end we came up with some powerful real life examples of MI spirit in action. Steven has some amazing stories that illustrate being on both the receiving and providing end.

A mantra that best describes MI spirit is that it is “collaborative, evocative, and empowering.” When our helping efforts embrace and embody these characteristics, we are likely to do much more good than harm. Conversely, when we act in paternalistic and prescriptive ways, we can do more harm than good.

When you begin to go deeper into a topic, it brings up memories. As Steven and I talked about his days living on the streets and living with a mental illness and substance use disorder, he recalled some of the helping professionals he encountered. Some were helpful, some were not.

There was one counselor he saw in the 1990’s who was particularly influential and instrumental in Steven’s journey towards recovery. Now that he knows more about the spirit and practice of MI, Steve wonders if the counselor might have been trained in it. The way the counselor treated Steven resonates with what Steve now knows about MI.

Recently, Steve decided to do some detective work. He did some digging and found a phone number for the counselor. He hadn’t seen him in over a decade. He dialed the counselor’s phone number and introduced himself. Steve asked about the counselor’s experience with MI.

Sure enough, the counselor had been trained in MI in the 1990’s. When he met Steve, he was consciously working within the spirit and skill set of MI. It was a fascinating and heartening discovery - attesting to the power of the spirit of Motivational Interviewing to transform lives.

Visit the HRC Motivational Interviewing Topic Page or read the feature article about the spirit of Motivational Interviewing to learn more.

Interested in being a HRC Guest Blogger? Email us at generalinquiry@center4si.com

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Category: HRC Insight