young people having a group discussion in a park

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October 29, 2013

Group Motivational Interviewing Can Help Teens Make Healthy Choices

by Elizabeth J. D'Amico

In our many years working with youth, my colleagues and I have found that group motivational interviewing (MI) is a powerful tool that can help teens make healthy choices when it comes to alcohol and drug use.

Group MI is a guided therapeutic approach that helps people think about their motivations for behavior and their commitment to change. It is highly collaborative, nonjudgmental, and empathic. Group MI is an excellent fit for adolescents, because it engages them about their personal experiences while eliciting ideas about how they can change and make healthy choices.

Today, we are introducing groupmiforteens.org, a unique website that provides free training to anyone interested in learning how to use this powerful tool to help adolescents in a group setting.

The website highlights two interventions:

  • CHOICE, a voluntary, five-session prevention and intervention program for middle school youth
  • Free Talk, a six-session intervention for at-risk youth, ages 14-18, with a first-time alcohol or drug offense.

Groupmiforteens.org features manuals for both CHOICE and Free Talk, as well as several helpful training videos that demonstrate how to use MI to engage teens in a group setting. These videos demonstrate how to facilitate the programs with both younger teens, and with older, more at-risk youth.

The website also answers frequently asked questions (FAQ) about using group MI with this age group.

Finally, groupmiforteens.org provides the opportunity to earn continuing education (CE) credits.

Our hope is that this resource provides practitioners with an effective method that helps them talk collaboratively with youth about alcohol and drug use. These types of non-judgmental and open discussions can help teens make positive choices both now and in the future.


Elizabeth D'Amico is a senior behavioral scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.