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RSAT Forum > Monthly Discussion > August 2022: Using Motivational Interviewing for Correctional SUD Treatment Programs View modes: 
skeller - 8/2/2022 5:52:25 PM
August 2022: Using Motivational Interviewing for Correctional SUD Treatment Programs

Question: We have heard that motivational interviewing is a good technique for correctional SUD treatment programs.  Do any prison or jail RSAT programs use it? Can we learn how to do this ourselves from a curriculum that may be available for free or do we need special training? We don’t need to become experts, just learn enough to be better able to work with RSAT clients.

Answer: Motivational interviewing or MI can be used alone or with other treatment methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and even peer based self-help! MI is more of a way of interacting with others to help them find their own reasons for change, act on those reasons, and commit to change.  It has been used in many criminal justice settings, as well as hospitals, behavioral health, in- and out-patient settings with a variety of different populations to treat substance use and mental health disorders, risky behaviors, treatment retention, medication adherence, and much more. It actually shows the best results when working with people who are in the first stages of change – the pre-contemplative and contemplative stages. In jails and prisons, these individuals are often labelled as resistant and perceived as not wanting to “do the work” of recovery / treatment. MI helps to engage people who may find it at first difficult to make the first steps towards change.

MI is considered a practice – so simply attending a training session or reading about it isn’t enough to learn the skills.  On the other hand, many people find that they have been using the basic skills of MI for much of their lives after attending their first MI training! It’s recommended that people can start by attending at least a one-day training with plenty of time to practice the skills, with booster sessions at least once a year.  Observation and feedback from other MI practitioners is critical and will help you develop your MI skill and use it correctly.  Some agencies and departments form a “Circle of Practice” where people who have been trained in MI get together on a regular basis to practice / role-play MI and provide feedback with one another. Anyone can be trained in MI, so RSAT programs can have clinicians, case managers, reentry workers, and officers utilizing MI with participants in their respective roles to reinforce and effectuate change.  

You can find consistently good MI trainers who are members of MINT (Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers) or Certified MI Trainers who were trained by a member of MINT.  Some online MINT trainings can be found at and MINT trainers within your state can be found at There are several RSAT programs which utilize MI, train and developed systems of MI feedback within their facilities as well. If you search through the RSAT program descriptions on the RSAT TTA website, you will find a few. One such RSAT program will be highlighted in the August 17, 2022 RSAT TTA webinar. You can register for this webinar!