The Spirited School Counselor

Motivational Interviewing in High School


motivational interviewing

I have been working at my internship site for several weeks now. Its been such a great learning experience and one of the techniques I have been focusing some energy into learning is motivational interviewing. Here is what I have discovered so far…

What is motivational interviewing?

Motivational interviewing was originally used when working with clients struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Since then it has been used to reach a wider range of clients and students. In initial sessions the main focus is showing an understanding of where the client is and what the client is going through. This is done through open ended questions, reflective listening, summarizing what the student has said, and using affirmations. By using these strategies it allows the client to see that you are meeting them where they are. Eventually the client will move toward change as he/she gains more self-awareness about the effects the undesired behavior is having on their life (consequences/risks/problems).

Why is it helpful with high school students?

I just consciously started using these techniques after a supervision session. My school counseling supervisor suggested this approach with a few of my students since it is a non-confrontational and non-judgmental approach to school counseling, something that some students, especially those who seem unmotivated, rarely experience in school (or in life, for that matter). This approach has a collaborative approach. School counselors and students work together to create ideas or possible solutions to the problem.

I am still doing research on this approach and will continue to practice these techniques. I have only used this approach a few times so far yet I saw an immediate difference in the students. I found a couple articles that I found helpful: Using Motivational Interviewing to Help Your Students & Motivational Interviewing with Academically Unmotivated Students

Do you use motivational interviewing with your students? Have you found it to be helpful?

What other approaches do you find helpful when working with seemingly unmotivated students?

Thanks for stopping by!



Author: thespiritedschoolcounselor

Hey there! I started blogging about my experiences through graduate school and now have continued as a working school counselor. I am currently working in an elementary school but try hard to keep up-to-date on all things school counselor, as well as topics in education. I hope to share ideas, document what I am doing, network, be inspired, inspire, and collaborate with others through this blog. My professional portfolio can be found here: Thanks for stopping by!

3 thoughts on “Motivational Interviewing in High School

  1. I have been working on developing a teacher training piece for two years based on MI with info provided by Wendy Reinke’s book and MINTED in England. I am currently working on an blended MI workshop. I would love to hear what type of training if any you have been developing.

    • Hi David,
      It sounds like you are doing great work. When I was researching MI I didnt stumble upon Reinke’s book. Her books look fantastic. I haven’t been developing a training. My supervisor had told me about a 2 day training that she attended at James Madison University’s Summer Institute ( on Motivational Interviewing. After talking with her about a couple of students she thought it may be beneficial. I began reading up on it and did find it really helpful. I have been in a middle school this semester and havent found myself using those techniques as much as I did with older students though. If I do get a job at the high school level, it is an area I hope to continue to explore.

      • I have been working with MI with all grade levels and even in teacher training. I would like to develop something like MINTED here in this country. If we could train not just teachers but students as well. It could create a different climate in schools. My schools happen to be inner city schools in a poor area of Dallas. I would love to continue this dialog further. Perhaps we can start a large conversation with all of us who are exploring MI.

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