Training Peer Specialists With Mental Illness in Motivational Interviewing: A Pilot Study

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Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of providing motivational interviewing (MI) training to peer specialists in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health-care system. Methods: Fourteen peer specialists at a local VA medical center received a 2-day workshop on MI and 2 monthly booster sessions afterward. A total of 55 therapy sessions between peer specialists and their peer service recipients were audio-recorded and independently rated on MI fidelity before the workshop and each month after the workshop for 3 months. Sessions were rated on fidelity scales assessing Fundamental MI Adherence and Competence, Advanced MI Adherence and Competence, and MI Inconsistent Adherence scales. One item was created for this study that assessed Sharing Lived Experiences. Repeated measures analysis was conducted to examine change in MI fidelity over time. Results: Peer specialists had a significant decline in MI Inconsistent Adherence scale scores over time. Specifically, they showed reductions in providing unsolicited advice and emphasizing absolute abstinence. Peer specialists also showed a significant decline in the Sharing Lived Experience Adherence item score. There were no significant changes on MI Fundamental and Advance scale scores. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Training peer specialists in MI is feasible and may lead to some change in practices, but comprehensive training and ongoing supervision is needed to incur and sustain changes. Guidance and assessment of how peer specialists share their lived experiences with fellow veterans may be needed to capitalize on their unique experiences and skill sets.

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