A feasibility study of teaching motivational interviewing in a fully online environment using a virtual client

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Supporting behaviour change is important in health promotion and disease prevention. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a core behaviour change counselling skill for health professionals to support people to make and maintain behaviour changes. MI is taught across many university courses and as continuing professional development. There is a need to provide repeatable MI training for health professionals and students that is accessible, affordable, and standardised and allows practise opportunities. This study tested the feasibility of asynchronous online MI training and using a virtual client interaction for practising MI skills. Postgraduate students (n = 22) from university health courses participated in the study. Participants completed questionnaires and interacted with a virtual client prior to and post-online training. Outcomes included MI skills (analysed using the Motivational Interviewing Treatment Integrity (MITI) code, version 4.2.1), attitudes towards behaviour change counselling, and acceptability of the online course. System usability of the virtual client interaction was evaluated using the System Usability Scale. There was a statistically significant improvement in both Relational and Technical MITI Scores, and in attitudes towards behaviour change counselling, from Pre-Course to Post-Course. Participants viewed the online course positively. System usability scored in the 90–95 percentile range. Results support the feasibility of providing MI training online and using virtual clients to facilitate the process. Further research is needed on the transferability of MI skills learned online to real world settings.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Health Promotion and Education
Early online date6 Mar 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Mar 2022


  • Behaviour change
  • Health professional education
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • online learning
  • virtual client


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