Do you teach client- or patient-facing communication skills?
Do you teach outreach or engagement skills?
If so, let me tell you about the MI Companion, an online practice platform that helps students learn the basics of Motivational Interviewing.
The MI Companion can easily be added to your existing course syllabus.
1. How much time should I give students to complete the MI Companion? The Companion includes 5 “homework” assignments over 6 modules. Hence it could be completed in less than 6 weeks or students can be given an entire semester. The decision is yours.
2. How long is each module? The material online is relatively short - 15-20 minutes maximum. But each module asks them to practice a skill (at home, work, or at an internship) so “practice time” adds more time.
3. How should I grade the MI Companion? I strongly recommend making the MI Companion Pass/Fail (Credit/No Credit). Grading each response would be difficult and time consuming and students need that push to complete that extra credit would not provide.
4. Do I have to respond to all of their posts? As the instructor, you will be given free access to the course space. As such you are able to respond to student postings. Depending on your own familiarity with the content of MI, you may wish to participate greatly or not at all. I am able to provide intermittent responses – affirming their efforts, asking provocative questions, or providing alternative responses.
5. Do I have to know MI to include it in my course? Absolutely not. The modules provide everything they need to know in order for the practice exercises to be successful.
6. “I don’t currently teach anything about Motivational Interviewing, but I’d still like my students to be exposed to it.” Great. See response above.
7. What kind of evidence do you have that the modules are effective? So far, my data are self-report and qualitative, but I’d love to work with anyone who’d like to plan a trial with some behavioral measures.
8. What does it cost? The student rate is $34.99 paid for by the student, like a textbook they would use in class.
9. “My syllabus is already packed. I can’t add anything else.” This is a common challenge and may require you to make some changes to your syllabus. Anecdotal evidence suggests that students appreciate the opportunity to learn these skills and clearly see its value for their futures.
10. How do students sign up? Prior to the start of an upcoming semester, I will provide brief content about the MI Companion and a unique link to the registration page that you will be able to copy and paste into your syllabus. Students will prompted to pay online.
“I wish that I had learned about MI earlier! It can be used in so many situations. I think the training and the online homework has helped me realize that I am capable of using MI and being successful. I really want to challenge myself to continue practicing and building my skills over time.
The biggest insight that I had was the value of asking permission. I really think that this shifted the tone of the conversation. The times I asked for permission, many people seemed surprised and curious about what I was going to share. Also, people felt respected and were, therefore, more likely to let their guard down a little bit and be more honest with me.
The key is to really not want to fix the problem for your client. Rather, as soon as your client feels like you are on their team, it becomes easier to elicit change talk and ultimately start planning ways to make a change.
I am excited to start clinicals and integrate MI with the patients in the hospital.”
Resisting the righting reflex or the urge to solve other people’s problems. If you do have to “give” information, use the EPPE (Elicit – Provide with Permission – Elicit) method.
Understand an individual’s motivation by eliciting change talk (ECT) or asking open questions that get the individual to tell you the reasons (or benefits) to make a change (instead of you telling them).
Practice mirroring back what you are hearing using both simple and complex reflections. Use a stem and make a guess about their meaning.
Use various strategies that help to empower others. Share your agenda, agree to a length of time, clarify roles and acknowledge their expertise about their own life, provide affirmations, and use autonomy language to emphasize that any decision is theirs to make.
There is a process to follow when building motivation. Motivational conversations should start with engagement and understanding the other’s perspective, agreeing on the focus or topic of the conversation, building motivation and then planning. Often phases get skipped as people rush to planning.
What are the gems that you will take with your from this traiing? What are you most proud of? What did you learn?
" I am so proud of the changes I made when listening to people. I learned to listen better and how to show it. Also, I like that I now know how to reflect and mirror back in a conversation. All- in- all, this was great."
" I'll be honest and share that I was practicing with a healthy amount of skepticism. The reason being that I'm so used to my family being so hard-headed that I was expecting the usual resistance. However, I saw the difference in responses like it was day and night! It was super cool, it almost feels like you have a super power."
" I have enjoyed learning about MI because it has given me the to have more therapeutic conversations with my patients and loved ones. I liked learning all the examples of MI and how I can incorporate the phrasing into my discussions. I know I need a lot more practice, but I'm glad I've had this exposure. "
"The biggest impact I've seen with learning MI is being comfortable with silence. Previously I've always thought that silence was uncomfortable and awkward because I wasn't sure what the other person was thinking. Now I view silence as an important tool to gauge where others are if they're reflecting or confused about my statements. I also experienced that a bit of silence will tend to prompt the other person to add more to the conversation that I may have missed if I didn't resist my urge to continue speaking. "
" The biggest thing I learned from MI was that I shouldn't be the one doing all the work in the conversation. I have always had the habit of jumping straight into offering someone advice and then getting annoyed when they don't listen. When you use MI you can guide the person into making a decision. And when they come up with that decision on their own, they are much more likely to follow through with it."
"Through the MI exercises, I came to really understand how the desire to change can only come from within the person. The only way that I can truly help is to guide a person by better eliciting his/her own motivation to change. It is a good tool to have because everyone at some point will need to find motivation to do something, so it is cool that I can be someone to help! "