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Motivational interviewing promotes healthy behavior

Intensive training certificate course beginning in January

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

diciembre 20, 2012
Daniel Mullin, PsyD

Experts agree that if patients followed their primary care providers’ advice, they would be much healthier. Unfortunately, it is human nature to be ambivalent about making changes, even positive ones like quitting smoking or eating a more heart-healthy diet.

But what if primary care providers could more effectively influence behavior so patients could better manage chronic health problems like diabetes and asthma, or even prevent them in the first place? With its new Intensive Training in Motivational Interviewing course beginning in January, the Center for Integrated Primary Care (CIPC) at UMass Medical School is bringing the proven technique for influencing positive behavior change to local primary care providers.

“In health care, if people don’t do what they should to manage their health, we often mistakenly assume it is because they lack information, so we spend a lot of time on patient education. These skills need to be supplemented with skills to build motivation,” explained course leader Daniel Mullin, PsyD, assistant professor of family medicine & community health. Dr. Mullin practices at Barre Regional Family Health Center, a UMMS Family Medicine Residency site that has been recognized as a Level 3 patient-centered medical home (PCMH) by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, and is a CIPC faculty member.

Motivational Interviewing is a patient-centered, goal-oriented method of communication for enhancing intrinsic motivation to change by exploring and resolving ambivalence. Originally developed 30 years ago as an approach for mental health providers to help change self-destructive behavior in alcohol abusers, MI has since proven effective in primary care as well, where clinicians can use it to address health-related behaviors that adversely affect patients’ physical as well as mental health.

“This isn’t just a set of skills for psychologists and social workers who have more time than primary care providers to spend with patients,” said Mullin. “We understand the demands of real-world primary care practice and the patient-centered medical home, and how to adapt MI skills for use in a primary care environment.”

Designed specifically for health care professionals working in the PCMH, the new course provides five four-hour group sessions, with time between each session to allow the learner to integrate the skills into practice and build on these skills in subsequent sessions. The training includes individual practice of skills with a specially trained “acting patient.”

“One of the unique strengths of our program is that we’re going to observe and record encounters with acting patients, then use the Motivational Interviewing Treatment Integrity coding system to evaluate what they’re doing well, and provide individual feedback on what they need to do to improve,” Mullin noted.

The certificate course is available online and, in a first-of-its-kind offering from the CIPC, in-person at UMass Medical School. A limited number of spaces for the in-person session have been reserved with a deep tuition discount for individuals affiliated with UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care. The deadline for registration is Friday, Jan. 4, for the online and in-person sessions beginning later in the month. Visit to learn more and to register.

Related link on UMassMedNow:

New center integrates mental health into primary care