Teaching motivational interviewing: using role play is as effective as using simulated patients

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Although several studies of motivational interviewing (MI) as an intervention have been conducted, there has been little research into how best to teach MI. Practice and rehearsal is often beneficial in helping practitioners to acquire communication skills, but there have been few studies into what types of practice and rehearsal are most effective.


Health care professionals (who attended a 2-day workshop in MI) were randomly assigned to conduct skills practice sessions with either a simulated patient (SP) or a fellow trainee. Their competence was assessed before and after training using the Behaviour Change Counselling Index, a validated rating scale. Participants also scored each practice session in terms of their affect and its perceived applicability to everyday clinical work.


There was no significant difference in skill levels between groups following training and no significant difference between groups in their scoring of the affect and applicability of each practice session. There was little indication of an association between how participants felt about their practice sessions and their skill levels.


Trainees reached the same level of competence in MI following a 2-day workshop, regardless of whether they practised with an SP or a fellow trainee during training.

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