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Motivational Interviewing at UVA

charlotte-chapman-150x150Author: Charlotte Chapman, LPC, is the program director for Counseling at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center and the Chair of Programs. She is a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) and has been using this approach for fifteen years. Contact:

One of the approaches being used by faculty, staff and students at UVA is Motivational Interviewing. This is a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change. This approach is strengths-based and is based on principles of partnership, acceptance, compassion and evocation. (Miller and Rollnick, 2013). There are many areas on Grounds where Motivational Interviewing is being used. We will highlight a few of them.


two-people-in-chairsWhy is this something we want to use as part of counseling students? First, it matches the value of student autonomy that is part of the UVA culture. Motivational Interviewing is based on the assumption that change occurs when there is self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation. In other words, some one will not change because they are told to do so; change occurs in a relationship where there is trust, empathy and a dialogue about what the person’s goals are for their own change process. The student is the one in charge of the change process and has many choices as to how they want to engage in this process.

Also it can be used as a brief model so it fits with students’ busy life styles. In addition, it is an evidence-based approach that has been researched specifically with the age group of most students. So when used by professionals trained in the model, a motivational interviewing approach gets results. This is important to students so that they are not spending time with a counselor and feeling like they are not making progress. The research suggests that this approach is helpful in getting the person engaged and in reducing their resistance to change.

Motivational Interviewing is used at the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center in the counseling program and in the outreach programs. It is also used in Student Health, specifically with BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students) and in individual and group counseling sessions.

The UVA Community

Trainings in Motivational Interviewing are being offered for faculty and staff each semester by staff at the Women’s Center. Anyone who participates in the training can then attend monthly meetings to continue to discuss how best to use this approach in their work.  Faculty and staff have participated from Athletics, Dean of Students, Student Health, Law School, Darden, Curry School and the Career Center. “Learning from the Women’s Center staff over the past two plus years, I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills in how to most effectively work with the student-athletes in helping them achieve changes that they believe in and desire.  The monthly MI meetings have allowed me to make connections with staff and faculty all across Grounds, and have supported me in approaching the student-athletes with the utmost compassion and care.” Kelly Rossi, Assistant Director of Sports Nutrition.

In addition to faculty and staff, student groups are also interested in learning this approach. The Peer Health Educators have this as part of their curriculum in addition to Resident Advisors. Students find it helps them have more confidence when they have conversations with other students about difficult topics such as drinking or mental health concerns.

Healthcare providers in the UVA medical system have also been trained in Motivational Interviewing and numerous research projects about this approach are ongoing.

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