Using Motivational Interviewing as a strength-based approach with children in a disciplinary alternative education program.


Children placed in the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) are often defiant and resistant to change. Motivational Interviewing (MI) was found to be effective in reducing clients’ resistance, enhancing their motivation for change, and increasing positive outcomes of treatment (Giordano, Clarke, & Borders, 2013; LaBrie, Pedersen, Lamb, & Quinlan, 2007; Wagner & Ingersoll, 2013). Despite research findings regarding MI, the extant literature does not focus on its use as a strengths-based approach with children. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of a 6-session Making Positive Changes Counseling (MPCC) program using MI principles and a strengths-based approach focusing on behavioral changes with elementary-school students on the DAEP campus. Participants in the MPCC program were students ages 8 to 12 years ( N = 16) enrolled in the DAEP. The sample of this research was obtained through a non-probabilistic sampling method. A single-case research design was conducted to explore changes in students’ classroom behaviors as well as comparing group differences between students who completed the MPCC program (N = 10) and those who did not complete treatment (N = 6) across time. Quantitative analyses were performed to examine changes in students’ mental-health symptoms as measured by Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire at pre- and post-interventions as well as comparing group differences. Analysis of data using the single-case research design indicated that the MPCC program was effective for improving classroom behaviors of students in the DAEP. Treatment effects ranging from small to large were noted. Quantitative results included statistically significant improvements in mental-health symptoms of students who completed the program. Statistically significant differences in mental-health symptoms were also found between groups. Large effect sizes were noted, indicating a significant impact of the MPCC program on behavioral change of students in the DAEP. Implications of this study supported the notion that MI as a strengths-based approach is a useful method for counselors and practitioners in school and mental-health settings. The findings indicated that MI could be used as a strengths-based intervention with children by scaffolding talk therapy with concrete activities. This study also added to the literature on the utilization of MI with children in a DAEP environment.