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Motivational Interviewing Increases Students’ Adherence to Therapy

College students face many emotional challenges. Young adulthood is a period of time during which adolescents begin to find themselves and carve out their own identities. It is also a time of great exploration and experimentation. Young adults enter into romantic relationships for the first time at college and many experience traumatic events, abuse, or violence.

Problems with peers, drugs, alcohol, and academics are just some of the issues that college students face every day. Fortunately, counseling services are available on college campuses to help students. Unfortunately, many students who begin counseling drop out before they receive the help they need. Therefore, it is imperative that new methods of retention be explored.

Tabitha L. Young of the Leadership and Counselor Education Department at the University of Mississippi wanted to see if motivational interviewing (MI), a rather new and untapped therapeutic approach could improve adherence among college students. The existing data on MI is limited, but what is available has shown that MI can be quite successful at changing behaviors in addicted individual and also in those with anxiety and depression.

MI teaches counselors how to implement empathy, to identify discrepancies in clients’ narratives, roll with resistance from clients, and act as allies on the journey of healing. To determine how well MI would work on nonaddicted students, Young enrolled 79 students receiving counseling on campus to either traditional treatment or MI with treatment.

She found that although the symptom outcomes were similarly positive for both groups, adherence rates were much higher in the MI group. This finding reveals two significant results. First, students who receive MI have a better chance at staying in treatment and getting the maximum benefit from it. Second, MI did not take away from the benefits of traditional treatment, but rather enlarged the opportunity for traditional methods and treatment strategies to take root and grow.

“Therefore,” added Young, “Practitioners can use MI to increase client attendance while providing, at the very least, the same level of care and client satisfaction.” These results provide concrete evidence that MI can be used effectively to improve student adherence to counseling, but should be tested on larger samples and on students with a variety of mental health issues.

Young, Tabitha L., Daniel Gutierrez, and W. B. Hagedorn. (2013). Does motivational interviewing (MI) work with nonaddicted clients? A controlled study measuring the effects of a brief training in MI on client outcomes. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD 91.3 (2013): 313-20. ProQuest. Web.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Rosie

    August 16th, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    How could there be anything that would ever be bad when even the term is labeled as motivational>?

  • PL

    August 17th, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    I am not aware of what exactly motivational interviewing is but I’d love to explore that.A few years ago in college when I was depressed and it affected my attendance the college therapist was no help.She kept treating me like I was doing a crime and that made me run away from therapy.Ended up losing a year in college and I now wish I had a better therapist or maybe a better technique.

    Motivational therapy and especially the empathy factor sounds very interesting.I hope this benefits all the students out there that are having trouble.

  • steph

    August 17th, 2013 at 5:33 AM

    Working with college age students will always be tricky because at first you may not know of the depresison is real or if it is simply stemming from being away for probably the first time and getting adjusted to a new way of life.

    With that being said a person who seems to be depressed should never be overlooked and it is wonderful to read so many things about colleges and universities really getting involved in this area which has long been overlooked and finding new ways to meet the mental health needs and specific issues faced by their students. I think that this is critical at this point in their lives, especially for those who haven’t yet built a real support system for themselves yet at school.

  • Jacqueline

    August 18th, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    major reason why I think students drop out is they do not feel that sense of belonging was in counseling sessions.the counselor may not be student friendly or the students may not understand the benefits of such sessions.

    both education on the benefits and a student friendly atmosphere where they are comfortable will help in bringing the drop out rates downs and will push the rates if those benefiting.

  • Laurel

    August 19th, 2013 at 5:49 AM

    College counselors working with this age set, man they have a lot to encounter and have to face with their clientele don’t they?
    I mean you have everything from kids who are away from home for the first time and who are scared to death to kids who absolutley want to spread their wings and try everything new under the sun even when it is to their detriment, to family men and women working on reserach and dissertations that are spreading them too thin and they are literally burning the candle at both ends.
    Counselors in these situations have to be so creative and well versed in multiple dynamics of therapy that will reach many different age groups with so many different problems, and I applaud the work they do to get the word out about the services that they provide and the intensity with which they have to work to keep their students on track and focused not just on their class wrok but also their self work.

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