Practitioners’ Use of Motivational Interviewing in Sport: A Qualitative Enquiry

in The Sport Psychologist
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  • 1 Sheffield Hallam University
  • 2 Liverpool John Moores University
  • 3 University of Essex
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This study explored the use of motivational interviewing (MI) in sport contexts by experts in that approach. Specifically, the purpose was to understand which aspects of the MI approach are deemed valuable for working in sport and to begin to understand how these aspects are best applied. Nine practitioners participated in semistructured interviews, and thematic analysis identified themes related to core and subcomponents of MI (e.g., relational spirit, technical microskills, applied tools, and the MI communication styles continuum). Additional themes relate to integrating MI with other interventions, the challenges of working with athletes (e.g., mandated attendance, ambivalence about change), and unique aspects of working in sport contexts (e.g., frequency, duration, and location of contact points). The participants also outlined essential ingredients for an MI training curriculum for practitioners in sport. This counseling approach appears to have valuable relational and technical components to facilitate the building of the therapeutic alliance, enhance athlete readiness for change, and support delivery of action-oriented interventions in applied sport psychology.

Mack is with the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, and Breckon, the Academy of Sport and Physical Activity, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom. Butt is with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom. Maynard is with the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, University of Essex, Essex, United Kingdom.

Mack (r.mack@shu.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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