Motivational Interviewing Fidelity in a Community Corrections Setting: Treatment Initiation and Subsequent Drug Use

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2016 Jun;65:20-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2015.07.012. Epub 2015 Jul 29.


Introduction: Although substance use is common among people in the U.S. criminal justice system, treatment initiation remains an ongoing problem. This study assessed the reliability and predictive validity of the Motivational Interviewing Treatment Integrity 3.1.1. (MITI) coding instrument in a community corrections sample.

Methods: We used data from 80 substance-using clients who were participating in a clinical trial of MI in a probation setting. We analyzed 124 MI counseling sessions using the MITI, a coding system for documenting MI fidelity. Bivariate associations and logistic regression modeling were used to determine if MI-consistent behaviors predicted substance use or treatment initiation at a 2-month follow-up.

Results: We found a high level of agreement between coders on behavioral utterance counts. Counselors met at least beginning proficiency on most MITI summary scores. Probationers who initiated treatment at 2-month follow-up had significantly higher ratings of clinician empathy and MI spirit than clients who did not initiate treatment. Other MITI summary scores were not significantly different between clients who had initiated treatment and those who did not. MI spirit and empathy ratings were entered into a forward logistic regression in which MI spirit significantly predicted 2-month treatment initiation (χ(2) (1)=4.10, p<.05, R(2)=.05) but counselor empathy did not. MITI summary scores did not predict substance use at 2-month follow-up.

Conclusions: Counselor MI-consistent relational skills were an important predictor of client treatment initiation. Counselor behaviors such as empathy and MI spirit may be important for developing client rapport with people in a probation setting.

Trial registration: NCT01891656.

Keywords: Criminal justice; Intervention fidelity; Motivational interviewing; Substance abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Counseling / methods
  • Criminal Law*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivational Interviewing / methods*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*

Associated data