Motivational Interviewing



Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidenced-based practice in the treatment of individuals with behavioral health issues. MI works across a range of culturally diverse populations, and behaviors including problematic substance use, health-promotion, medical adherence, and mental health issues. MI is a collaborative, person-centered counseling method for addressing the common problem of ambivalence about change. The method supports change in a manner congruent with the person's own values and concerns and is thus an effective practice for culturally diverse populations and communities. The primary goals of this training, coaching, and feedback opportunity are: 

  • Understand what MI is and practice using it as an engagement strategy in your work as a NNED member working with culturally diverse populations. 
  • Work together with presenter and other participants to practice applying MI in your work empowering others to reach their goals. 
  • Have an opportunity to receive feedback and coaching on 3 submitted recordings of conversations about change. 


Organizations may propose a team of 3 to 5 behavioral health practitioners from the organization. At least one member must be the primary contact/supervisor who:

  • has the support of the organizational leadership to implement MI,
  • is committed to developing their own proficiency in MI, and
  • is able to support the implementation of MI in the organization.


  • Participants will gain an understanding of the definition of Motivational Interviewing and important foundational concepts.
  • Participants will learn about the core skills used in Motivational Interviewing and practice using them.
  • Participants will understand the importance of change talk in supporting someone in making a change and practice identifying change talk when they hear it. 
  • Participants will practice strategies for eliciting change talk.

Questions to consider before applying for Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing is, briefly, a collaborative conversation to strengthen a person’s own motivation for and commitment to change. To determine whether there is a potential role for MI in your organization, consider the following questions (yes or no):

  • Are there (or should there be) conversations about change happening?
  • Will the outcomes for the people you serve be influenced by the extent to which they make changes in their lives or behavior?
  • Is supporting people to make such changes a part of your service (or should it be)?
  • Are people you serve often reluctant or ambivalent about making changes?
  • Are utilization, adherence, engagement, and retention in your services significant concerns?
  • Do staff struggle with or complain about people who are “unmotivated,” “resistant,” or “difficult”?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, there may be a role for MI in your organization.

Is Motivational Interviewing a good fit for your organization? 

Effectiveness of MI depends upon fidelity of practice, so benefits for the people you serve would not be expected until staff have developed and are maintaining reasonable proficiency in delivering MI.  

There are some work settings where MI will not easily take root. In such settings, implementation of MI will require a culture shift in order to support changes in how services are provided. Consider whether any of the following assumptions might be dominant perspectives in your organization:

  • “We are the experts here, and it’s up to us to take charge.”
  • “We don’t have time to listen to people. We have too much to do.”
  • “We’re not going to waste our time with people who are unmotivated.”
  • “Our clients are in denial, dishonest, out of touch with reality, and incapable of changing on their own. There is no point in listening to them.”
  • “The only language these people understand is to get in their face, scare them, and tell them what to do.”
  • “They’re not going to change anyhow, even if we do our best.”

If any of the assumptions above apply to your organization, then it is important to know that the above philosophies of service are opposite to the underlying assumptions of Motivational Interviewing. So, while culture change can occur, people working within such a climate may not welcome Motivational Interviewing. There are however still ways to implement MI. For example, having even one person who can work with people receiving services in a person-centered way may make a difference, particularly if it occurs early in service delivery.

Motivational Interviewing is more likely to take root in a collaborative organizational culture. Such a culture evokes strengths and possibilities, elicits solutions from within (e.g., from people receiving services, their family members, staff, and other stakeholders) and values good listening as the key to operating effectively and efficiently.

Criteria for selection of participants

Successful applicants will:

  • Complete a optional 20 minute digital recording (.mp3, .mp4, or .wav format) of a conversation with a colleague, friend or family member about a real change they are thinking about making or wanting to make. 
  • Schedule a time with the trainer to receive feedback on the recording.
  • and participate in a conversation with the trainer about feedback on the recording.
  • Send your personal goals and organizational goals for the outcome of participating in NNEDLearn 2014 to the trainer.
  • Participate in the pre-work webinar.

Post-Training Activities

  • Following the on-site training, each organization will support the formation of and participation in an MI learning community where the team members participating in NNEDLearn 2014 will meet (at least monthly) to listen to each other’s recordings and practice different ways of responding in order to better understand:
  • How to apply MI in a particular situation;
  • What each participant’s next step is in practicing MI;
  • Explore a range of practitioner responses at a certain point in a recorded conversation to observe the result; 
  • Explore whether MI is appropriate for the recorded situation; and 
  • Observe the practitioner responses that seem most likely to evoke change talk.
  • Observations and questions arising from the organizational learning communities will be submitted to the NNEDLearn Online Discussion Forum.
  • Teams will participate in 3 post-training webinars (1.5 to 2 hours each)
  • Team members will participate in the online discussion forum
  • Teams will participate in 1 coaching call with the trainer.
  • Teams will have opportunities for coaching and feedback based on recorded practice.


Jennifer Frey, PhD
Licensed Psychologist,
Motivational Interviewing Consultant

Important dates

  • Pre-Work Webinar: Monday, March 24, 2014 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm ET 
  • On-Site Training: April 6 - April 9, 2014 (Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico)
  • Coaching Call: To be determined with each organizational team

Post-Training Webinars:

  • Tuesday, June 10, 2014 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm ET
  • Tuesday, July 8, 2014 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm ET
  • Tuesday, August 5, 2014 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm ET

Information for all webinars is posted on the Discussion Forum under the "Meeting and Logistics" thread.


For more information visit the Motivational Interviewing website.

Read more about NNEDLearn.