Welcome! Read the latest issue of PROGRESS, featuring inclusive programming in Virginia. Read PROGRESS

Using Motivational Interviewing in Adult Education

by Andjela Kaur

Motivational interviewing has repeatedly been proven to be a counseling method that leads to better commitment to treatment (showing up for the next scheduled appointment).

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a form of empathic dialogue for strengthening a person’s motivation and commitment to change. It is designed to strengthen an individual’s motivation for movement toward a specific goal by eliciting and exploring their reasons for change within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion. This well-researched tool is proven to increase motivation and persistence of people who are struggling to set goals and/or achieve them. In 2012, Rhode Island Regional Adult Learning (RIRAL) trained all its admissions and career counseling staff to conduct MI-based interventions; after six months, the staff reported increased satisfaction with the process of admissions and counseling. The students also reported that they felt heard and understood during the admission process.

Motivational interviewing has been successfully used as an ongoing intervention for increasing and maintaining motivation for change of a behavior. It was originally introduced in the 1980s in the field of substance abuse, where it has repeatedly been proven to be a counseling method that leads to better commitment to treatment (showing up for the next scheduled appointment) and a decrease in the likelihood of relapse. In the field of adult education, MI can be used both in admissions and as an ongoing classroom strategy for increasing persistence and influencing students’ motivation to achieve their goals.

For those interested in learning more about the model, the best starting point is to take a basic motivational interviewing training, which is best delivered as a 16-hour training over a period of time. Although training styles vary, the training requirements are standardized and each participant is expected to achieve the following: a) understanding and practice of the spirit and principles of MI ; b) understanding and practice of MI skills; c) understanding and practice of skills to strengthen a person’s change language and develop commitment language. If this training is focused on a particular team or department within an organization, it is likely that, in addition to meeting these requirements, the group will come closer together and that the members will develop stronger interpersonal relationships based on empathy and patience for each other.

Since the initial basic MI training, RIRAL’s staff has used the method in various ways within the agency; many staff have changed positions, but they always brought MI with them to the next post. After leaving my job at RIRAL in order to pursue doctoral studies, I have had the privilege to train many organizations in this method, and have witnessed teachers, counselors and administrators feel better about their jobs once they have added this valuable tool to their bag of professional tricks.

Andjela Kaur is a motivational interviewing trainer and practitioner who specializes in using motivational interviewing in workforce development and adult education programs. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts, where she is studying political economy of vocational rehabilitation with a focus on workforce development professions. Andjela is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and has worked as a rehabilitation counselor in the fields of mental health, substance abuse, and student advising; as a teacher in adult education, vocational education, and higher education; and as an administrator of workforce development programs.