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Research Alert: Training Mentors in Motivational Interviewing Techniques

AUGUST 22, 2016
BY: MELISSA SEIDENBERG, MENTOR: THE NATIONAL MENTORING PARTNERSHIP

Editor’s note: From time to time on the NMRC Blog we will cross-post announcements about research studies on mentoring drawing from the research listserv run by NMRC Research Board Chair Dr. David DuBois. This week, we are highlighting a study entitled Interpersonal style should be included in taxonomies of behavior change techniques (Hagger & Hardcastle, 2014), which explores the impacts of behavior change techniques, including motivational interviewing, as well as practitioners’ interpersonal style on behavior change. Motivational interviewing is a set of practice skills which focus on exploring options, and emphasize client choice and autonomy.

To expand on the concepts in this study, Dr. Sam McQuillin, Assistant Director in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Carolina and NMRC Research Board Member, discusses how his team incorporates Motivational Interviewing techniques into his research on Youth Mentoring in Middle School students.

My research lab trains mentors in Motivational Interviewing (MI) for brief school-based programs. It is hard work, though--learning MI is not easy. To learn "canon" MI, helping professionals (e.g. counselors, health coaches, etc.) sometimes receive days or weeks of training, as opposed to the 3-4 hours we get with mentors. To boot, most of our paraprofessional mentors don't have backgrounds in helping professions. Learning MI, in such a short time with a limited background, is a tall order. When I evaluated an earlier version of the program, I found that, despite mentors attending 3-4 hours of training, performing role plays, and passing knowledge tests, many were still not speaking in a style consistent with MI. They were violating many of the don'ts (e.g. don't give unsolicited advice, don't ask too many questions back to back, etc.) and ignoring many of the dos (e.g. make empathic reflections, elicit reasons for change, etc.).

One way we addressed this challenge was by supplementing the pre-service training with (a) regular brief on-site training that occurred directly before mentors met with their mentees. In these 2-3 minute meetings, staff gave examples of MI consistent verbal behavior to groups of 2-3 mentors. Then, right after completing this mini-training, the mentor would meet with his or her mentee. We saw some non-trivial improvement in mentors' use of the MI style and our program's effectiveness with these brief check-ins.

More recently, we used 1-2 minute streamed web videos that showed examples of a mentor using MI-consistent verbal behavior with a mentee. Staff encourages mentors to watch these videos from smart phones or tablets before mentoring. We are still at work on a complementary suite of brief mobile-accessible e-learning content.

To learn more about the work of Dr. McQuillin’s research lab, please see the journal article Brief instrumental school-based mentoring for middle school students: Theory and impact (McQuillan & Lyons, 2016). You can join Dr. David DuBois’s youth mentoring research and practice listserv by emailing Dr. DuBois at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

What does your mentoring organization do to promote mentor satisfaction, and what impacts have you seen this have in mentors’ work with youth?


Articles Referenced:

Hagger, M. & Hardcastle, S. (2014). Interpersonal style should be included in taxonomies of behavior change techniques. Frontiers in Psychology, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00254

McQuillan, S. & Lyons, M. (2016). Brief instrumental school-based mentoring for middle school students: Theory and impact. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, DOI: 10.1080/1754730X.2016.1148620

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hi .. how would I find a link to the short training videos and web-based video information that are mentioned in the up-date article?
Randall High
Family Pathfinders
817-714-5100

randall high
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Hello Randall,

I spoke with Dr. Sam McQuillin, Assistant Director in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Carolina and NMRC Research Board Member, recently and he said that these videos will be available for the public late...

Hello Randall,

I spoke with Dr. Sam McQuillin, Assistant Director in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Carolina and NMRC Research Board Member, recently and he said that these videos will be available for the public late summer 2017. In their research they identified many ways to improve the videos and are currently in the process of remaking them.

If you would like more information please don't hesitate to contact me at mseidenberg@mentoring.org I am happy to answer any further questions you may have.

All my best,

Melissa Seidenberg
Program Associate
MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership
Phone: 617-303-4619

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