Motivational interviewing: empowering a young person to change

7th August 2020

On the Frontline programme, we use motivational interviewing to encourage the children and families we work with to believe they can bring about and maintain meaningful change. It helps families see themselves as experts in their own lives, working alongside professionals to get the best outcome. We use it alongside systemic practice and parenting interventions to make sure we build a relationship of trust with those we’re working with, letting them know they have the tools they need to move forward in a positive direction.

Recently, I have been using motivational interviewing with a 17-year-old who had a strained relationship with his family, to the extent that he had recently moved out of the family home and into supported housing. He didn’t have a daily routine and felt he was lacking purpose, on top of already very low self-esteem. He was stuck in a vicious cycle.

I asked him questions that encouraged him to consider how he had dealt with difficult situations in the past to help identify coping strategies that worked well for him previously. It was important he could see examples of and believe that he had the skills, ability and drive he needed to make positive changes. When he told me that there was an apprenticeship he wanted to go for, this was a great step. He felt very nervous about the interview, so I used motivational interviewing techniques with him in a session just before his interview to explore the ways in which he was equipped to succeed in the role. I also reassured him that his communication and the way he expressed himself in our sessions had improved hugely and worked on other ways to reinforce a positive self-image and promote his self-confidence. I was so happy to hear that he was accepted for the apprenticeship – and also how much it helped to increase his self-belief and desire to keep going.

As well as using these motivational interviewing techniques with him, I was also working with his family. We focused on communication as there had previously been a lack of listening – something really important in a systemic approach. This was really beneficial as it allowed – particularly the young person and his mum – to understand where the other person was coming from. By using these practice models in conjunction with each other, his relationship with his family significantly improved to the point that they decided he would permanently move back to the family home.

It was fantastic to see the influence motivational interviewing had on this young person and the wider effects this led to for him and his family. He now has a positive daily routine, feels proud of the work he is doing and is living in a safe environment. He knows he has the ability both to sustain these changes, and make other positive changes when he needs to in the future. It was so encouraging to see how proud his mum was when she spoke about him and the hopes they all had for the future. This is exactly the kind of outcome I had hoped for when I joined Frontline: working alongside a young person to empower him to bring about change in his life.

Our 2020 cohort of Frontline participants are learning about motivational interviewing at our summer institute. To learn more, check out our ‘Motivational interviewing practice model: cultivating change talk’ blog and our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter channels to find out more about what this cohort have been learning.