Motivational Interviewing | 2016



Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidence-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 the MI training, coaching, and feedback opportunity are for participants to: 

  • Understand what MI is and practice using it as an engagement strategy in your work as a NNED Partner working with culturally diverse populations. 
  • Work together with trainer 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.

Who can participate?

Organizations may propose a team of 3 to 5 behavioral health practitioners from the organization. One member must be the team leader, who must have:

  • the support of the organizational leadership to implement MI,
  • commitment to attaining and maintaining their own proficiency in MI, and
  • commitment to supporting their fellow team members’ proficiency in MI. 

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 MI. So, while culture change can occur, people working within such a climate may not welcome MI. 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.

MI 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.

What is required of participants?

Recognizing that it takes more than a 2-day training to implement new practices or programs, SAMHSA requests that participating NNED Partner teams commit to the full NNEDLearn 2016 training model which includes: Prepare; Learn; Implement; and Sustain. Read more about NNEDLearn 2016. Objectives and expectations for each NNEDLearn stage for MI are as follows:


The first stage of NNEDLearn involves preparing the NNED Partner team for the Learn stage (on-site training), and requires that team members:

  • Participate in 2 webinars.
  • Complete a 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 and upload to the trainer’s secure server.
  • Schedule a time with the trainer to receive feedback on the recording.
  • Participate in a conversation with the trainer about feedback on the recording.
  • Send your personal goals and organizational goals for outcomes of participating in NNEDLearn 2016 to the trainer.
  • Collect baseline data on program and team members’ engagement and retention rates.


From March 6-9, teams will attend a 2½ day training at the Tamaya Hyatt in Santa Ana Pueblo, NM. Participants will learn:

  • The definition of MI and important foundational concepts
  • The core skills used in MI and practice using them
  • The importance of change talk in supporting someone in making a change and practice identifying change talk when they hear it
  • Strategies for eliciting change talk


After the Learn stage (on-site training), all MI teams will receive ongoing coaching to help support uptake of the practice. Team members will:

  • Participate in 4 group coaching conference calls with the trainer (dates TBD).
  • Participate regularly in the online discussion forum.
  • Complete two (immediately post-training, and at 3-4 months post-training) 20-minute digital recordings of a conversation with a colleague, friend or family member about a real change they are thinking about making or wanting to make and upload to the trainer’s secure server.
  • Participate in an ongoing in-house learning community among the team members with leadership from the team leader.


NNED Partner teams are expected to pursue efforts to sustain the practice and to demonstrate outcome and impact as appropriate. Teams will have the opportunity to: 

  • Work with the team leader to collect outcome data after team members have demonstrated proficiency in applying MI skills in their work, including average engagement and retention rates for both the program and the team members.
  • Provide input on training outcomes and the impact of NNEDLearn 2016.


Jennifer Frey, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Motivational Interviewing Consultant

Important Dates

  • Prepare Webinar One: February 4, 2016, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET OR 1:00 – 2:00 pm ET
  • Prepare Webinar Two: February 18, 2016, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm ET
  • Learn Stage (On-site Training): March 6-9, 2016 (Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico)
  • Implement Coaching Calls: April-August 2016

Information for all webinars and coaching calls will be posted on the Discussion Forum.

Discussion Forum

Access the Motivational Interviewing Discussion Forum.


Email for any questions related to NNEDLearn 2016. 

Read more about NNEDLearn 2016.