Understanding Motivational Interviewing
Motivational interviewing is a person-centered approach to engage individuals in conversations about changing behaviors.
This approach uses receptive (i.e., active listening) and expressive (e.g., clear expectations and direction) strategies to convey empathy and support and to promote shared decision-making to encourage positive change.
This communication approach is particularly helpful because it uses youth’s strengths and goals to help them feel motivated to change behaviors.
Motivational interviewing starts with identifying goals (e.g., make new friends) and recognizing contradictions in youth’s behaviors or statements (e.g., lack of participation in activities or gossiping about other youth). Once the discrepancy is highlighted through empathic and supportive statements, youth program staff begin a conversation to assess youth’s motivation to change. The objective of motivational interviewing is not to persuade youth to change but to help youth understand how their behavior supports or hinders them in achieving their goals. A strong relationship between youth program staff and youth is crucial for the success of motivational interviewing. It is an effective tool for youth program staff to help manage youth’s behavior by applying communication strategies.