This website is intended to be a portal for information about Motivational Interviewing in Schools providing a resource for educators interested in learning and integrating its use into schools. It is intended to be an international forum for sharing among teachers, administrators or anyone working in educational settings (including colleges), as well as to provide some resources and ideas to help you build your capacity and that of your school or institution.

Motivational interviewing is a form of collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change. It is a student-centered conversation focusing on ambivalence about change by paying attention to the language of change in an effort to strengthen student’s motivation for and movement toward a specific goal by eliciting and exploring their own reasons for change within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion (adapted definition from the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainer and Miller & Rollnick, 2013).

MI can provide educators with a tool for how to enhance students’ intrinsic motivation to learn or change behavior, individually or in a class. It does so by providing a simple way to honor autonomy, recognize strengths or competence to scaffold learning while enhancing interpersonal collaboration. Might this be a tool to support students in developing a growth mindsets for their academic skills, reinforce the development of grit and improve outcomes?

As you use MI and work toward becoming proficient, sharing stories and experiences can help others. Your willingness to share your stories about using MI will help others in the important work of helpings students grow and develop.

MI Beginnings

Motivational Interviewing started in addictions counseling among psychologist when some Norwegian graduate students helped William R. Miller on a sabbatical, to figure out what it was that made him effective at helping individuals decide to go into treatment. They found that confrontational approaches as well as trying to convince clients to go into treatment were counterproductive. They came up with the heart and mindset required as well as some skills used in conversations that facilitated the decision to go into treatment.

Stephen Rollnick who had played a role in the first publication of an article on MI in the an addictions journal in Wales, convinced Miller to write a book, which they did together with the first edition in 1989. Since then the approach has been translated into over 20 languages and trainings are done in over 40. The current 3rd edition has moved beyond its addiction focus since MI is being used in practically all human service fields where behavior change is helpful in improving outcomes of any kind, since it helps individuals decide for themselves. There are resources about MI in its broader use in various languages, few in any language on educational applications, but the approach is the same.

In education its use has been relatively recent and therefore the resources are fewer. It is for that reason that a collaboration between Stephen Rollnick and Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) colleagues Sebastian Kaplan and Richard Rutschman was created to make MI relevant to educators. This website and a book about MI for educators is the result.

On this website you have access to free resources for learning MI and a chance to explore its use and and hear from others who are using MI in educational settings. The PDF’s on the right column are there to make it easy for you to access free material. MI is simple yet not as easy as one would think, because MI is not a normal conversation and is as much what you do as what you don’t do that makes the conversation MI adherent. If you are interested in finding out about the book, details are below.

An MI Book for Educators

The book Motivational Interviewing in Schools, Conversations to Improve Behavior & Learning was written with the intention of providing busy teachers, counselors, administrators and other staff with a guide rather than a comprehensive resource on Motivational Interviewing in their work with students or parents. It aims at helping anyone working with students to integrate its use anywhere behavior change would improve outcomes.

The decision to change behavior on the part of students requires a different way to talk to students and can take place in the classroom, on the run in the corridor, in an office, a playground, gym or to support their progress and success. It can be done as the result of a fight and can be particularly effective when students are off-track.

This book (see synopsis/outline) seeks to make it easy to understand the basics of having MI conversations with students and parents. In addition to learning about the interpersonal (mindset/heartset) presence one has—the Spirit of MI—the book presents the core skills required using dialogue examples in a section called In Practice. Readers can see how the use of empathic reflective listening of students’ affirms their strengths while acknowledging their autonomy in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner helps them decide without pressure what to do about their situation. Examples of these are in various settings and about various issues, including conflictive behavior between students, unmotivated students in class, dealing with personal issues or relating to parents.

There are chapters on how MI can help schools address issues like bullying, working with vulnerable at risk students, preventing push-outs or dropouts or to re-engage dropouts or truants. A chapter is also devoted to how to provide a neutral counseling approach to students as they plan their future, like which school to attend or careers to study.

For a full resource on MI there is Motivational Interviewing, 3rd edition (Miller, W. & Rollnick, S., 2013). In addition, there are other books that you may find valuable in helping to develop your skills for working with students. The MI series of books from Guilford Press may help you in your journey, including Motivational Interviewing with Adolescents and Young Adults (Sylvie Naar-King & Mariann Suarez, 2011) and Building Motivational Interviewing Skills: A Practitioner Workbook (David Rosengren, 2009).

The Authors

Stephen Rollnick, PhD worked for many years as a practicing clinical psychologist and then focused on research and teaching on the subject of conversations about change. He is a co-founder of motivational interviewing and of the international Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). His interests have covered applications in health and social care, vulnerable women in deprived settings and HIV-AIDS. He is a co-founder and Director of Pediatric Aids Treatment in Africa (P.A.T.A.). He is an author of numerous books on motivational interviewing and has published over 100 scientific papers and chapters on behavior change. His current interests are in improving conversation skills in schools and sports coaching.

Sebastian G. Kaplan, PhD is a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Section, at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. A former special education teacher, Dr. Kaplan currently focuses his clinical work on helping adolescents and their families overcome a variety of challenges to their growth and development. He has written and presented on the application of MI for pediatricians, mental health providers, and school personnel, and is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers.

Richard Rutschman, EdD has been a teacher, principal, higher education administrator, and currently is involved in school improvement efforts in Chicago. He has found that blending experiential learning with motivational interviewing is particularly effective with marginalized high school students. For over a decade he has been leading or training others to carry out programs that integrate motivational interviewing in schools and universities. He trains educators and human service providers (including health and corrections) in MI as well as leading professional development sessions in experiential education and evidence-based practices. He is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and does workshops in the US and abroad in English or Spanish. Contact info: RichRutsch@ameritech.net.