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Developing Motivational Interviewing use amongst UK EPs

On the Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology programme at the University of Manchester, we have recently received some impact funding to develop motivational interviewing (MI) practice within EP services.

Developing MI practice

As part of our work, our online survey should help us to find about MI practice amongst UK EPs, which in turn should help us to think about avenues for development and support. Depending on how much you have to say about your MI practice, it should take between 5 and 20 minutes to complete. If you could take time to respond that would be great. If you are also able to circulate to trainees and colleagues in services, it would be very much appreciated. The more information we have, the better placed we will be to support MI development amongst EPs.

Take the survey.

Why we’re doing this

Since the publication of a seminal paper discussing the promise of motivational interviewing (MI) in schools (1), there has been increased interest in motivational interviewing use amongst educational psychologists, both nationally and internationally. A recent systemic literature review (2) found good evidence for the use of student-focussed, school-based MI. While in the UK, the approach has been traditionally used to support disaffected students, there is also growing interest in the wider application of MI within consultation (3), intervention fidelity (4), promoting academic achievement (5), and responding to bullying (6).

A 2011 survey of therapeutic practice (7) found that 31% of a representative sample of educational psychologists (EPs) reported using MI within their practice. However, since then, Miller and Rollnick, the originators of MI, have redefined the approach (8), to centre practice around three central elements:

  • spirit (acceptance, compassion, evocation and partnerships) which unpins the philosophy behind using MI.
  • a hierarchy of processes for working with clients is specified – engaging, focusing, evoking and planning
  • the core skills, defined by the acronym OARS are recognised as open questions, affirmations, reflections and summaries.

These practice-driven developments have meant that although MI has been around for more than 30 years, it is not yet theoretically stable, and may be used in different ways by practitioners across a range of contexts (9). For example, there is evidence to suggest that EPs often find it useful to use the transtheoretical model of change alongside MI (10). However, to date, there is no comprehensive picture of how EPs are using MI to support children and young people.

Take the survey to help us think about the development and support for MI practice in the UK.



  1. Frey AJ, Cloud RN, Lee J, et al. The Promise of Motivational Interviewing in School Mental Health. School Ment Health. 2011;3(1):1-12. doi:10.1007/s12310-010-9048-z.
  2. Snape L, Atkinson C. The evidence for student-focused motivational interviewing in educational settings: a review of the literature. Adv Sch Ment Health Promot. 2016;9(2):119-139. doi:10.1080/1754730X.2016.1157027.
  3. Blom-Hoffman J, Rose GS. Applying Motivational Interviewing to School-Based Consultation: A Commentary on “Has Consultation Achieved Its Primary Prevention Potential?,” an article by Joseph E. Zins. J Educ Psychol Consult. 2007;17(2-3):151-156. doi:10.1080/10474410701346451.
  4. Frey AJ, Lee J, Small JW, Seeley JR, Walker HM, Feil EG. The Motivational Interviewing Navigation Guide: a process for enhancing teachers’ motivation to adopt and implement school-based interventions. Adv Sch Ment Health Promot. 2013;6(3):158-173. doi:10.1080/1754730X.2013.804334.
  5. Strait GG, McQuillin S, Smith B, Englund J a. Using motivational interviewing with children and adolescents: a cognitive and neurodevelopmental perspective. Adv Sch Ment Health Promot. 2012;8535(October):1-15. doi:10.1080/1754730X.2012.736789.
  6. Cross DS, Runions KC, Resnicow KA, Britt EF, Gray C. Motivational interviewing as a positive response to high-school bullying. Psychol Sch. 2018;(September 2017):1-12. doi:10.1002/pits.22120.
  7. Atkinson C, Bragg J, Squires G, Muscutt J, Wasilewski D. Educational psychologists and therapeutic interventions: Preliminary findings from a UK-wide survey. Debate. 2011;140:6-12.
  8. Miller WR, Rollnick S. Motivational Interviewing, Third Edition: Helping People Change. New York: Guilford Press; 2012.
  9. Atkinson C, Woods K. Establishing theoretical stability and treatment integrity for motivational interviewing. Behav Cogn Psychother. 2017;45(4). doi:10.1017/S1352465817000145.
  10. Atkinson C. Motivational Interviewing and the Transtheoretical Model. Motiv Interviewing Furth Appl with Child Young People. 2014:19-32.

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