Should we teach Motivational Interviewing skills within communication skills training in the veterinary curriculum?

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review


Motivational interviewing (MI) is an established evidence-based communication methodology used in human medicine to effect behaviour change. The primary tenet of MI is that it is through engaging with and facilitating an individual’s intrinsic motivation that behaviour change results.
The concept of motivational interviewing evolved from experience in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction (Miller and Rose, 2009) and is now widely applied to a range of psychiatric disorders including eating disorders and psychosis (Treasure, 2004) It is also used to improve general health by eliciting change in maladaptive features of lifestyle such as smoking, excessive weight gain and inadequate exercise (Rubak et al, 2005). A national network of training and evidence exists and MI training is being increasingly used in medical schools to support undergraduate communication skills training with increasing calls for it to be mandatory
(Shemtob, 2016).
MI has applications to the context of veterinary medicine. Its particular use appears to be where the veterinarian is advising change in farmer or owner behaviour that is challenging to implement, such as changes in herd health approach or in changing pet owner behaviour associated with health
issues such as obesity and prevention of disease. In these contexts, MI specifically focuses on exploring and resolving the psychological ambivalence that is common in complex decision making to better engage owners with veterinary recommendations.
Empirical evidence suggests that skillful use of this methodology can alter client volition and choice, as well as related behaviour (Miller and Rollnick 2013). Its inclusion in curricula could therefore enhance undergraduate skill in engaging and motivating clients towards behaviour change for their animals. However, the question of teaching this skill set is not only a practical one; the ability to influence client decision making also engenders ethical considerations (Yeates and Main 2010).
The authors are a group of researchers and clinical teachers at Bristol Vet School where evidence is being gathered on the effect of MI on vet-client interaction, and MI skills have also been introduced to undergraduate veterinary students within the curriculum in both farm and small animal clinical work in Years 4 and 5.

The aims of this workshop are for participants to:

• Gain understanding of the theory of MI
• Gain awareness of ongoing research into the application of MI in farm and small animal veterinary work

• Experience aspects of the MI process
• Discuss how MI might Motivational Interviewing be integrated into veterinary communication skills curricula
• Discuss the ethics of using motivational interviewing to influence client behaviour
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventVetEd 2017: International Symposium of the Veterinary Schools Council - University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Jul 20177 Jul 2017


ConferenceVetEd 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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