Exploring the Understanding and Application of Motivational Interviewing in Applied Sport Psychology

in The Sport Psychologist

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Rory MackSheffield Hallam University

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Jeff BreckonSheffield Hallam University

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Joanne ButtSheffield Hallam University

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Ian MaynardUniversity of Essex

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The purpose of this study was to explore how sport and exercise psychologists working in sport understand and use motivational interviewing (MI). Eleven practitioners participated in semistructured interviews, and inductive thematic analysis identified themes linked to explicit use of MI, such as building engagement and exploring ambivalence to change; the value of MI, such as enhancing the relationship, rolling with resistance and integrating with other approaches; and barriers to the implementation of MI in sport psychology, such as a limited evidence-base in sport. Findings also indicated considerable implicit use of MI by participants, including taking an athlete-centered approach, supporting athlete autonomy, reflective listening, demonstrating accurate empathy, and taking a nonprescriptive, guiding role. This counseling style appears to have several tenets to enhance current practice in sport psychology, not least the enhancement of therapeutic alliance.

Mack and Butt with the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK. Breckon is with the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK. Maynard is with the Dept. of Sport Psychology, University of Essex, Sheffield, UK.

Address author correspondence to Rory Mack at r.mack@shu.ac.uk.
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