Efficacy of motivational interviewing in prisons and probation departments

Gaylene Armstrong
Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Key Findings

  • The therapeutic practice of motivational interviewing can be effective when utilized in a probation department setting, if supported by the right tools and officer training.
  • The self-reporting mechanism of CEMI (Client Evaluation of Motivational Interviewing) was found to be a useful tool in measuring the probation officer’s level of training in implementing motivational interviewing with their clients.


In the article, “Perceptions of Motivational Interviewing: Validation of the Client Evaluation of Motivational Interviewing Scale with Probation Clients,” Armstrong examined the tool of motivational interviewing, an approach found to be effective in supporting behavior change in therapeutic settings, as it is currently being utilized in prisons and probation departments. The study surveyed 485 probation officers who had been utilizing motivational interviewing, and asked them to self-report their responses through the previously developed mechanism of CEMI (Client Evaluation of Motivational Interviewing). The goal of the study was to determine whether or not this self-reporting mechanism of CEMI could be a useful tool in determining the overall efficacy of employing motivational interviewing in a probation department setting. The study found that CEMI is in fact a valid and promising tool, and that its implications can be used in the training of probation staff and for targeted mentorship of individual probation officers tasked with utilizing motivational interviewing.

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