Why the motivational interviewing training you had is not enough. 4 minute read.

by: Dr. John Coumbe-Lilley

John will be hosting a workshop at Center on May 18th.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is now a widely shared research supported communication process focused on a particular conversation about change.  Sadly the workshops and training most individuals have taken does not sustain them for long, in fact there’s evidence to suggest most individuals lose competency following training.  The spirit of MI gets watered down, the emphasis on core skills, the ability to accurately assess the stage of readiness and the evocation of change talk lowers.  

MI training is not strong enough alone to override the years of professionals experience and training prior to MI learning.  It’s just not strong enough to win in the helping relationship and individuals slide into their previous approach and add MI to their approach.  This is not the MI way.  The MI way requires the person to tune themselves like a piano, practice like chess player with thought and care, and performance in the moment acting on the values and living the process MI is intended to create with the person seeking help. 

The competent MI practitioner is a facilitator starting in the middle of a continuum which has on one end directing and the other end following.  They focus on eliciting and affirming the client’s intrinsic resources for change. MI using professionals can be found in wide contexts of health, education, business and probation they are often initially we trained in college programs, well instructed and professionally delivered workshops by individual from the Motivational interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT).  

The rate of loss differs for different individuals it depends on the quality, type, frequency and accuracy of feedback about their MI work.  Individuals who are not refreshed by booster training lose direction from the true north of MI and have to course correct.  Using an MI coach in your agency or organization is good practice, and they should be effective at helping you identifying the gaps, help close the gaps and monitor MI practice to assess competency. Having ongoing MI learning in your job, at your workplace as a part of your ongoing professional development is essential to hold the gains made in initial MI training.  Up to 81% of MI trainees who reached proficiency in MI lost their competencies within 16 weeks!

Steven Covey in his classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talked about sharpening the saw, taking time to work on yourself, your skills and checking you are moving in your life the way you want to.  Taking further MI training is essential to retain the approach and your skills.  It is not different than other areas of life, you would not tell an athlete they will be okay with their performance and not work on their skills.  You want your dentist to work on their skills and you definitely want your teachers to know what they are doing because you trust to be competent. 

The best way to retain your MI skills is to ensure when you become initially proficient, you already have a plan to maintain your hard earned levels of performance.  Use your initial benchmarked proficiency as your baseline and measure yourself regularly.  Take stock of your performance every 12 weeks, get feedback from a trusted supervisor or peer, identify your gaps, set an MI practice goal and make a plan to achieve it. 

Get passed the fear of taped sessions of your MI practice.  Feedback is to performance improvement what oxygen is to the body.  Send your work to a coach for feedback.  These days where there is an absence of data it is hard to make decisions about where to focus your training dollar investment because you do not know what you should improve.  Submit your tapes for MI coding. 

Bill Millers is quoted as saying ‘real skill and comfort in the method can only be achieved through disciplined practice with feedback from a knowledgeable guide’.  Look in your organization for a guide, assess your organization’s cultural support for ongoing MI training and extended consultation about MI practice.  If these things are sketchy or hit and miss in your organization, determine how important your MI proficiency is to you and your clients and self-design an MI development program. 

If you were trained over a year ago and you have not been refreshed and  benchmarked your MI proficiency recently it might be time for you to take stock, understand your strengths and limits, set a goal and make a plan to regain the hard earned skills you once had. 

Find a trainer at Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers.