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Acad Med. 2019 Oct 1. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003011. [Epub ahead of print]

Teaching Motivational Interviewing to Medical Students: A Systematic Review.

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S. Kaltman is professor, Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC; ORCID: A. Tankersley is doctoral candidate, Department of Psychology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA; ORCID:



Medical students must be prepared to work with patients with maladaptive health behaviors and chronic health conditions. Motivational interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based, patient-centered, directive communication style designed to help patients address behaviors that are detrimental to their health (e.g., substance abuse, poor diet). In this study, the authors systematically reviewed the evidence pertaining to MI curricula in medical schools. Their aims were to describe the pedagogical and content-related features of MI curricular interventions and to assess the effectiveness of the interventions and the quality of the research evidence.


In March 2019, the authors searched databases, seeking studies on MI in medical schools. They manually extracted descriptive information, used the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument (MERSQI) to assess the quality of the included studies, and synthesized the included studies' results.


Sixteen studies met inclusion criteria. The majority of included studies were pre-post evaluation designs; the most rigorous were randomized controlled trials. MI curricula were heterogeneous, varying in timing, content, pedagogical approaches, and outcomes measured.


The results of this review suggest that the implementation of MI curricula in medical schools can be feasible and effective, and that students can achieve beginning levels of proficiency. The results support the inclusion of MI in undergraduate medical education curricula and highlight next steps to advance this area of medical education research: achieving consensus around essential early MI skills that should be taught in medical schools and identifying the most effective scaffolding strategies to teach this complex mode of communication.

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