Effectiveness of Motivational Interviewing for Young People Engaging in Problematic Substance Use

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a ‘style’ or ‘method’ that aims to enhance a person’s motivation to change problematic behaviour by exploring and resolving their ambivalence about change and requires specific clinical training. This resource examines the latest evidence around the use of Motivational Interviewing when working with young people with problematic substance use.

Substance use is common among young people, with a recent survey of Australian secondary school students (aged 12-17 years) finding that 80% had tried alcohol, 14% had tried cannabis and 19% had used inhalants at some time in their lives.
Given the range of negative short- and long-term outcomes associated with substance use in young people, it is important to offer interventions that delay onset, prevent use from becoming regular or problematic and encourage reduction or cessation.
The aim of this piece is to outline and provide a summary of the available evidence for a clinical style – Motivational Interviewing – that may be used to intervene with young people (12-25 years) who present with substance use/misuse that is problematic yet below the level that would constitute the diagnosis of a full-threshold use disorder.