19. Motivational Interviewing For School Counselors with Reagan North
Episode 1926th July 2023 • Counselor Chat Podcast • Carol Miller, School Counselor
00:00:00 00:47:12

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Have you ever used motivational interviewing (MI) in your school counseling program? If you aren’t familiar with motivational interviewing, it is a technique that focuses on building empathy and helping students talk themselves into making positive changes based on what motivates them. 

It’s absolutely fascinating to learn about and for our guest today, Reagan North, it completely changed the way he viewed his job as a school counselor. Reagan is here to share all about this technique and how you can use it with your students.

Reagan North is a professor and author of Motivational Interviewing for School Counselors. In our conversation, we discuss the power of motivational Interviewing (MI) in school counseling and how it can lead to positive behavioral changes in students.

You can hear more from Reagan at The Summer Counselor Conference where he will be presenting a session on motivational interviewing techniques for individual counseling, small groups and classroom lessons.

Topics Covered:

  • A powerful MI technique that leads to better understanding and connection with students.
  • How asking for permission to discuss sensitive topics or change allows students to feel in control of the conversation
  • Different ways that school counselors can use MI (Motivational Interviewing) effectively 
  • Why giving advice can actually break our relationships with students
  • The difference between a simple and complex reflection, and examples of how you might use it during a counseling session
  • What to focus on in order to help students develop the motivation to make positive change in their lives

Links Mentioned:

Connect with Reagan North:

Grab Reagan's Book:

More Resources:

Questions about the conference or anything you heard on this episode? 

Send me an email: carol@counselingessentials.org

Mentioned in this episode:

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Carol: You're listening to the Counselor Chat Podcast, a show for school counselors looking for easy to implement strategies, how to tips, collaboration, and a little spark of joy. I'm Carol Miller, your host. I'm a full time school counselor and the face behind counseling essentials. I'm all about creating simplified systems, data driven practices, and using creative approaches to age students. If you're looking for a little inspiration to help you make a big impact on student growth and success, you're in the right place, because we're better together. Ready to chat? Let's dive in.

Carol: Hi, counselors, and welcome back to the Counselor Chat podcast. I'm Carol Miller, your host, and I am so excited. Today we have Dr. Reagan North on our podcast, and Reagan is going to talk to us all about motivational interviewing for school counselors and how we can use that technique in our own counseling practice. What I really loved was how Reagan broke down the differences between caring and showing empathy. So it's definitely a must. Listen, but before we dive into the episode, I just thought I'd share a little podcast review that I received from a counselor whose username is CTamu and they write in Exciting! I've enjoyed this podcast. I'm currently in first year as a middle school counselor and found Carol Miller when looking for resources to help. I was excited to see she started a podcast as she is one of my favorite resources.

Carol: Oh, my God, that's so. . . I love it.

Carol: My why for being a school counselor is to help my students to know who they are and guide them through some of the hardest times in their younger years. So, CTMU, welcome to the counseling profession. I'm so glad that you are one of our colleagues that is really helping to guide students and make a difference in their lives and to really help them be the best version of themselves. So welcome and thank you so much.

Carol: For that beautiful, beautiful review.

Carol: For those of you listening, I would love to be able to read your review online. So please, please just drop a little review at the end of this podcast and let me know what you thought, what you liked about it, maybe even what you'd like to see on the podcast in our future episodes. But without any further ado, let's just dive into our interview today.

Carol: All right. Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Counselor Chat podcast. I'm so excited that you are here with me, and today we have a special guest for you as well. Today we are interviewing Reagan North and Reagan Trains, future school counselors at Liberty University, as well as Grand Canyon University. Now, prior to him working in higher ed, he was a high school counselor for six years. But most impressively, he has written a book entitled Motivational Interviewing for School Counselors, and he's presented on this subject at numerous Aska conferences, as well as different statewide school counselor conferences, as well as various university and school districts around the country. And his goal is to really train as many school counselors in motivational interviewing as he can. So I know I first met Reagan boy, it was one of my early conferences that I went to Reagan, I think it was, I don't know, maybe six years or so ago. And I went to your session, and I was like, wow, this is really cool stuff. I have to be honest, though, I haven't really used it because at that time I moved from the high school to the middle school. But I always like, wow, this is a really good thing to have in my back pocket. And I always wanted to do more trainings and everything like that. And I'm so excited that you're going to be one of our presenters at the summer counselor conference and that you're going to be talking all about this, because I'm definitely going to be watching this. So welcome, and I'm so glad that you're here. Can you tell us about yourself a little bit more for our listeners?

Reagan: Yeah, well, I can tell you how I got into motivational interviewing. Maybe that would be a good place to start. Well, maybe I'll start a little bit before that. So I was a high school counselor not that long ago, just a couple of years ago. So I've been a professor just two years now. Don't feel like a higher ed person academic yet. They haven't invited me to the ivory tower yet, which is very sad. But I still feel like a school counselor at heart, and I embarrass myself in front of academics because I say weird things and I say things like a school counselor would, and I still train like that. So in my mind, I'm still a school counselor. That's been the best job I've ever had. Definitely the most fun.

Carol: I definitely think once you're a school counselor, you're kind of always a school counselor. But that's just me.

Reagan: I'm always going to claim it anyway. But I've done other things before that. I was a social worker in the foster care system, so I was helping kids that are on the far end of the spectrum of needs for students. And that was really helpful because when I became a school counselor, I understood those kids more than other people, maybe. And before that, I was a youth pastor for six years. And so I've worked with a lot of different kids in a lot of different contexts. But I have to say, looking back, I don't know that I was super good at it for a long time. And I think that's because I didn't know a lot of the things that I learned as a result of being trained to do motivational interviewing. Because even in my grad program to become a school counselor, I learned like my master's program. I learned nothing about motivational interviewing. Maybe I heard it once or twice or something in a textbook or whatever, but I was not really trained to do it at all. And I happened upon it in my doctoral studies just reading a lot because that's what you do as a doctoral student. And I thought, why do I not know this? This seems perfect for school counseling. I can't believe I didn't learn this. So I went and got trained on it, spent my own time and money and went to some really good trainers and got trained on it. And then I started using it as a school counselor, and it totally changed the way I did my job. I think before that, I was relying on my ability, my perceived ability to connect relationally with students, which I think was happening because, like I said, I had worked with students in a lot of different arenas. I knew how to connect with adolescents. But there's a difference in I'm not a weirdo like some of your teachers or like, I can connect with you, and I can help you make positive changes in your life. That connection was happening maybe a little, but not a ton. And so for the first, I don't know, maybe a couple of years of being a school counselor, I was not seeing the results that I wanted to see. I wasn't seeing students improving their grades or attendance or discipline or whatever we were talking about. And it wasn't until I started using motivational interviewing that I started seeing results. And after that, it was mind blowing. I mean, it changed everything for me. It changed the way I viewed my job. And I saw results, like, crazy, like, results that I would never have even expected to see.

Carol: Just listening to your story, and I'm thinking about some of our counselors out there who may be listening, who are brand new to the field. And I just want to say that one of the things I think when you start into the profession is that I do think that you are thinking about all the changes that you want to make and all the good that you're going to do. But I do think, like your story, it takes time to really perfect your craft, and you have to dig a little deeper into different trainings because we haven't been trained enough in some of our programs. And like you, I didn't hear about motivational interviewing until I was well into my career because 30 years ago, they didn't talk about that at all. So I think it's really important to invest the time to really dig into things so that you can make that difference.

Reagan: Yeah. And I think as someone who has trained a lot of counselors, now I'm a professor now, so I'm training future school counselors. But I also travel around and I don't know, at least a dozen times a year, I'm training current school counselors who may have been in the job for years and years. Decades, even. I would say that time does not correlate with skill, because people do the same thing that they've done for years and years and years and years and years. That doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do though.

Carol: That's true too.

Reagan: That's true too. One of the things that motivational interviewing is very much against and this is research based, this is not just opinion is that giving advice is not effective at all. It doesn't lead to change and it pushes people away. But man, we love giving advice. It feels so good to the counselor because we think and I did this a ton prior to learning I shouldn't we think I said it, therefore they're listening. And because they're listening, they're going to implement that. Well they don't. They totally don't for the most part. And I think equally as bad, if not worse is that it breaks relationship with the students. Because if you're working with kids who are like fourth grade on they are adolescents and so they have a natural biological drive to push adults away and to try and figure it out themselves. And so they just have this drive. When I say hey, have you thought of doing this? Maybe you should do this, there's something in them that goes no, not going to do that. Advice turns out to be really not a good thing to do. But I got to say a lot of the counselors that I've trained that's their go to move.

Carol: That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense.

Reagan: And a lot of times just because we fall into a habit, that's what we do. That's what we've always done. And research changes, scholarship changes. And so most school counselors are trained in higher ed programs, master's programs. Most states require that. And what we teach in those programs changes over time based on research. At least it should. Counselor's knowledge base, to your point, doesn't once we finish our grad programs we're done unless we actively seek out new information.

Carol: Exactly. That's why we also like if we are expecting our students to learn new skills or new ideas or to implement a new thought process, I think we have to be in the trenches. They're learning with them as well.

Reagan: That's a great point. That's a great point. And this very much relates to motivational interviewing because Mi is new in schools. It's been around a long time, since the 80s, but it was in almost every part of the helping profession except schools unfortunately. So we know it works really well. It's more potent than anything else we know of for addiction treatment and it's being used heavily in medical care. You can't go to a serious nursing school or medical school without learning some motivational interviewing and it's used by social workers and it's used in correctional facilities and it's used in therapy and for whatever reason schools just are last to know about it. But it's really growing now, just in the last few years, it's really taking off. And a lot of school counseling programs and schools of education, they're teaching this to teachers as well because we're just seeing in the research that it's highly effective.

Carol: Okay, well, can you give a really easy to understand definition of what motivational interviewing actually is?

Reagan: Yes. So according to Bill Miller, the creator of Mi and his writing partner Steve Rolnick, mi is a way of having conversations. So it's not a theory. It's not a full on counseling theory. It's actually part of person centered counseling. That's the theory anyway. But it's a way of arranging conversations so that in our case, students talk themselves into making positive changes in their life based on what they care about. So it's about what motivates them. We're trying to figure out what motivates an individual, and then we leverage that to help them make a change in their life. And this is very different than what typically goes on in schools because schools are these big institutions where we have to get a whole bunch of kids to learn a whole bunch of things in order to move along or graduate. And so typically, if a kid is out of line, whether it's their grades, their behavior, their attendance, whatever it is, we have some sort of conversation with them. And I'm not saying we being counselors. It could be administrators, teachers, or the counselors saying, hey kid, you're out of line here. And so you need to get back with the program because here is the institution's expectations and so you need to align with those or you're in big trouble. Well, that is the antithesis of motivational interviewing because Mi says, hey, why does it matter to you that you get your grades up? Like, what is it about? It for you. And we don't make any assumptions. We don't say, hey, I've got a chart for you to look at, kid. And it shows you that people who graduate from high school make a lot more money than people who don't. You see that? And the people that go to college make a lot more money than that. Therefore, don't you want to get your grades up now? Well, it sounds like good advice and it's good information maybe, but it assumes that what that kid cares about is money. And that might not be true because every student has their own individual motivation, and we can't guess what it is. We have to interview them. Hence the name motivational interviewing. We have to interview them and sort of get it out of them. What matters to you? Because it could be that that student you're talking to actually what motivates them is that they love their grandma like crazy and their parents disappeared from their life a long time ago, and their grandmother has worked super hard to get them a roof over their head and food on the table. And they want to make that grandma proud, and that's really the only reason they even care about. We would never know that. If we're assuming sort of the expectations and the values of the institution or we're sort of guessing what matters to that kid, we're never going to get there, and so we're never going to be accessing the most potent motivation for that kid. So what Mi does is tries to figure out what that is and then helps the student use that to compel themselves to change.

Carol: Yeah, I can totally see how that would have such better results with kids, rather than assuming, and I do think that a lot of us do assume that we know the kid enough to know what's going to motivate them. But we do need to sit down a little bit more and have some deeper conversation about what really is driving them towards certain things and helping them see what success means through their eyes.

Reagan: Yeah, exactly. So with Mi, it is a very technique driven counseling style, actually. So some counseling isn't existential counseling, for example. It's all about ideas, but it doesn't really tell you how to do it. Person centered counseling prior to Mi was kind of like that, too. We just care, care, care, care, love, love, empathy, whatever that means, and then people are going to get better. So what Mi did was say, okay, yes, but how do we do it? And so Mi is highly evidence driven, research driven. So Mi people came along and said, yes, we believe in empathy, but we want to know what causes empathy to happen. Every counselor thinks they've been at empathy. I don't know if you've noticed this, but I have. Having talked to lots and lots of counselors, they all think they're good at it. So did I, when I didn't know anything about this stuff. I would have rated myself super high on empathy, but I didn't have a clue what it means to actually show empathy, which is different than caring. But a lot of people don't know that there's a difference there. But research actually shows us that if you'll ask counselors, hey, how much do you care? Or educators, doctors, nurses, it doesn't matter what part of the helping professions you're in. You ask one of those professionals, how much do you care? Oh, my gosh, I care so much. I just love my fill in the blank student, patient, client, I care so much. And then they ask the student, client, patient, how much do you think this professional cares about you? And usually the answer is, I don't know. So they don't say, oh, yeah, they care, or, oh, no, they don't. They just say, I have no idea. When I first saw that research, I was stunned, because at the time, I didn't do Mi, and I was very much relying on my ability to connect with kids, and I thought that would work. And then I see this research that says, actually, even though you think you are, you're probably not. And I thought, oh, no, this is not good. So with Mi, we identify what specific calcite techniques lead to empathy, and that's what we focus on. And just briefly what those are. What we know of in research are simple reflections, complex reflections, and a few other things. But those are the most powerful ones. Those are mi terms. I think most people know what reflecting is. It would be like if a student says, yeah, I don't show up to school enough, but I'm just so tired. A simple reflection is to say, oh, you're really tired. So you take the kids exact words or the ideas and just put it back to them in the form of a statement. So instead of saying, oh, why are you tired? Asking a question, you just say it back to them, oh, you're really tired. And then you just sit there. And what happens is it makes the person think about if what they said was true. Because dirty little secret. Most humans do not think about what they say before they say it. Bummer for us. I'm talking like 95% of us, we just say whatever, but we haven't really thought, is that why? Like, this student hasn't thought, is that why it don't show up to school? They just said it. And so by reflecting it, you're giving them a chance to think about it. And so if the counselor will just sit there and let the awkward silence happen, the student will think about it, and they'll say, yeah, because and they'll tell us why they're tired. Or they may say, no, it's not that. It's more that I'm nervous about first period or whatever it is. So that's a simple reflection. A complex reflection is we're going to add a little bit to the conversation, so I'm going to guess how they're feeling, or I'm going to guess what's important to them based on our conversation, and I'm going to reflect that. So if the student says, yeah, I know I need to show up more, but I'm just too tired, I might think that sounds kind of stressful. And so I say, oh, so you're really tired and that's causing some stress in your life. Now, the student didn't say that, so I'm making an educated guess as a professional counselor, I think this might be stressful. So I say, oh, sounds like this might be causing some stress in your life. And then the student goes, yeah, and they open up some more. Yeah, because I know that my grades are terrible, but I want to do better. I just can't get out of bed. So then I could continue to reflect and say, okay, so there's something about doing better in school that matters to you. Because I just said that. Yeah. And they'll share that with me. So instead of asking a bunch of questions, if I can just reflect what they're saying, one, I'm going to get a lot more information. Two, they're doing the thinking, not me. And three, most importantly, it's causing empathy to happen. Because if you think about what empathy is, it's that student knowing that I get them. That's what empathy is. And so if I am saying what they're saying back to them, by definition, empathy is happening.

Carol: Yeah, I could see how that could definitely strengthen and build a relationship, just knowing that somebody's really listening so intently with what they're saying.

Reagan: Yes. And as counselors get good at it, things go deep really quick. You can learn as much or more about a student in five minutes as you would learn in five months of doing the wrong things, giving advice, asking closed ended questions, even asking a lot of good open ended questions. If all you do is ask questions, you're still doing most of the thinking, and you're still doing most of the directing of the conversation. But if you're reflecting, then the student has to take over, and they will inevitably direct the conversation where it needs to go. That's part one of motivational interviewing is really good empathy skill. I'll give you one more. That's super easy, but super powerful, asking permission. So if you're calling a student in because they're struggling with another kid in class, and instead of saying, hey, I called you down because I heard you got in an argument in class, instead you say, would it be okay if we talked about what happened in second period? That sounds like nothing. But it has a massive impact on conversations because subconsciously, it tells the person, you're in charge, not me. I'm just here to help. I'm your servant. I'm just here to help you, and you're in charge. So if you say it's okay, we'll do it, and if you don't, we won't do it.

Carol: Yeah, I hear how that's also, it's like less judgmental if you're asking, hey, can we talk about this? You're not really judging them. I know that this happened in second period, and tell me why you did this wrong. Right. It's a whole new way of really approaching the situation. I love it. I love it.

Reagan: It's so easy, and it really does. We see this in research. It has a massive impact on the way the student perceives what's going on. It seems like nothing to the counselor, but to the student, it's telling them, you're in charge, you're in charge. You're in charge. Every time you do it now, 99% of the time they're going to go, sure. Like, they almost always say, yes. Oh, yeah, let's do that. The point is not to get a yes or no. The point is not to get the permission, because they're going to give you permission. The point is to reiterate to them over and over, you're in charge.

Carol: So in your experiences, Reagan, what grade levels would be best to use this approach with? Can you use it with, like, because I'm in elementary right now. Can I use it as early as kindergarten, or is it best to wait when they're 4th, 5th, 6th grade?

Reagan: Yeah, it's a good question. I think that mi was created for adults, and so was every other counseling theory ever. So when we as school counselors, look for things that work for kids, what we should not do is look for counseling theories that were created for kids because zero of them were bummer for us, but hey, that's the way it is. So what happens is these counseling theories come to exist, and then we study them as, like, working with kids to see if they're effective. And what we find is, first of all, kids who have hit adolescence have the brain ability, the cognitive ability, to think like an adult. It doesn't mean they're good at it. And of course, an 18 year old's brain is different than a fourth grader's brain. Most fourth graders have hit puberty. And so, I mean, on that day, the brain begins to rewire itself, to be better at abstract thought. We used to think only people who hit puberty could do abstract thought. That's not true. They just get way better at it. So can it be used with kids younger than adolescents? I think yes, but I think this is borne out in research on multiple theories, not just mi. It's related to how well the counselor can translate the techniques and the wording to those kids. So more of the onus is on the counselor than if you're using it with older kids or adults. I could see that I was never elementary school counselor, but I am a dad, and I use these things on my very small children. Like, I have a six year old and a four year old, and I absolutely reflect them. And it does have an impact with my six year old. I can do it verbally more with my four year old, I reflect her actions. So I'll say, oh, so you're playing with that toy, and you're doing this with that toy, and that toy just whacks that other toy. I bet that toy is sound, and she might respond to me, or she might just keep playing, but either way, she's hearing me in that way. It's a form of play therapy. And people think, oh, well, play therapy was created for kids. Well, yes, it was, but play therapy is not a theory. A lot of counselors will say, I do play therapy. Well, play therapy is actually a technique. It's not a theory. And so this is totally an aside, but if you're doing play therapy, you need to have a plan. Like, what's your goal with this play therapy? Is it to do person center counseling? Is it to do CBT? What's your goal here? Because play therapy is just a technique. It's not going to go anywhere unless you have a plan to get it somewhere. And that's true of Mi, too.

Carol: Awesome. Well, so far, I've learned a ton. A ton. I spent a long time in the high school, and I could totally see how this would have been so helpful. I wish I had been using it years ago. This could have really have helped so many more of my kiddos.

Reagan: Yeah, it was amazing to me. I didn't quite get to part two of Mi, so part one is showing empathy, and for a lot of kids, that's it. If you do that, it's mysteriously amazing. You show a kid that you get them, and they just change. It's crazy. You didn't even talk about it. You're just like getting to know them, understanding their situation. I see why this is hard for you. I see what's going on. I see how you feel. And then you know how school counseling is, oh, an emergency has happened. I got to go see you, and things get busy. Whatever. You don't see the kid for a couple of weeks, and then you check their grades, and their grades went up, and you go, what? We didn't even talk about that. We didn't even make a plan of how to do that. It just happened in that way. It's very much like person centered counseling. We just connect with them, show them that we care, show them that we get them, and good things happen. But that doesn't happen for all kids, for other kids, once we get to that point where we have a good relationship, then we focus on what Mi calls change talk. And this is where the student is talking about change. Like, I need to get my grades up. I want to get my grades up. I think I could get my grades up. I've already started studying things like this, where they're talking about a good behavior change in their life. That's what we want to focus on. We don't care about the excuses. So they might say, I want to get my grades up, but these could be good excuses, these could be bad excuses. It actually doesn't matter. We don't want to know too much about that. But I'm really busy. I have soccer practice. I work after school. My little siblings are annoying. My parents work nights. I mean, it could be, like, a legitimate understandable excuse, or it could be what we perceive to be a bad excuse. Either way, we're not that interested in Mi. We hear them, we might acknowledge it, but what we really want to hear about is why they care to improve. We get some of both in all conversations, and this is true of all of us. Personally, I would love to lose weight, and I also love cookies, and so I'm died torn. This is true of everyone, including our students. And so if I were doing Mi and myself, I would say, oh, so you are interested in losing weight. And I would ignore. The cookies. I wouldn't say, do you like chocolate chip more? Do you like those disgusting oatmeal raisin cookies? Do you like peanut butter more? Do you like white chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips more? If you talk about the things holding people back, then that's what they will focus on, and that's what they will continue to do. We don't want to do that. We want to help students build a vision for a better future. So that would be hearing all about what they want in life, in this alternate reality, this alternate future that would require a change in direction. I want to hear all about that. So if a kid says, yeah, I want to get my algebra two grades up because I want to go to college, but it's so hard, the teacher hates me, and blah, blah, blah, give all these excuses, okay? I don't care about that. I want to know, tell me about college. Where do you want to go? What school? What do you want to major in? Where do you think you want to live? You want to live in the dorms? Not the dorm. Do you think you would do sports? Like inner murals? I want to know what is exciting to them about that, and I want to help them build a vision for it and really put flesh to the bone. They may have just thought, I want to go to college someday, but they haven't really daydreamed about it. If we can help them to daydream about it and really want it, that's really motivating. And so that's what can really compel a student toward that future, and it will help them fix whatever behavior that they would like to improve.

Carol: Now, I love it, and I can definitely see how not focusing on the things that stand in the way is going to get you better results. Because I'm going to be honest here with you, Reagan. When you started talking about the cookies, my mind immediately went to Ben and Jerry's. Ben and Jerry's is what's holding me back. So even as the listener, it can change depending on what you're focusing on.

Reagan: Totally does. And the way Mi came to be is because there was research. There's a really interesting series of studies to figure out, why do people change? Because most don't. By the way, the vast majority of humans do not change because it's hard. But we all want to. If you ask people in studies, how do you want to make positive change in your life? They'll give you a list. Oh, I want to lose weight. I want to exercise more. I want to eat better. I want to spend more time outside. I want to spend more time with my dog. I want to travel to Italy. Like, they have all kinds of stuff, but very few of them ever do. And so what they did was they studied people who actually did make changes in their life to try to figure out what causes it. Is it how much money they have, how much money they make, their family structure, whether they're married or not, or what their parenting was like when they were kids. What kind of parenting did they receive? Is it their ethnicity? Is it their socioeconomic status? Is it where they live in the country? I mean, they did tons of factors. What they found out was the most powerful factor of whether you're going to change for the better is the way you talk about the change, which was not the expected result at all, but that's what it was. If people talk about change, they're more likely to do it. What we found out is most people, they have sort of a vague idea of what they'd like to change in their life. And then the way they talk about it is that they talk about all the reasons why it's not happening. And so they don't. It's the people. It's a slim number of people in society who actually they make a vision plan for their life, and then they talk about how they're going to go do it and why it matters to them. And that's how Mi was created. They said, okay, if that's true, then let's create a series of techniques to make that happen. And that's what mi is.

Carol: It's like all those people on Facebook that I follow who post their meal for the day. We're going back to this dieting thing here for a second. And I know that they're going to reach their goal because they're posting about it every single day. They are putting it out there. And I definitely believe sometimes you have to go big or go home, right? If you commit to it and you say it and you say it out loud, and you say it out loud multiple times, yeah, I think you really are more than likely to reach your goal.

Reagan: Yeah, that's what the research tells us. And so I started doing that as a school counselor, and I saw crazy results. I couldn't believe it. I was kind of a believer once I got trained, but I hadn't seen the results. But within no time, I mean, I immediately saw the connection with students grow dramatically by using those empathy skills. And then it wasn't too long after that that I started seeing the results that the kids said they wanted. Grades going way up, attendance up, discipline going down, people pursuing. I was a high school counselor, so I had students whose family had never even considered college going off to college because of these conversations. This even goes beyond school counseling, but I would have these conversations about risky behaviors, let's say, which these things come up when you're doing those empathy skills, reflecting, sewing, empathy, kids will start telling you all kinds of stuff, maybe things you don't want to know. But anyway, so I'd have these conversations about risky behaviors and whatnot. And I was a school counselor in western Washington. A lot of drugs. And so I'd have students say I need to cut back on my marijuana use or whatever, and they're like, smoking multiple times a day. This goes beyond what school counselors are even supposed to do. So it's not like I was sitting in there making a plan with them on how to I'm not doing addiction counseling, but I'm just reflecting what they're telling me, and maybe I want to cut back. I think I want to cut back to just using on the weekends because I got to get my grades up. We're having these kind of conversations. Okay, sounds good. See you later. I'm busy. I got to move on to the next student. And then months later, I have students come back after summer break and drop in before school starts when they're coming to get their textbooks and their schedule and stuff. Hey, Mr. Norris. How's it going? Hope you had a good summer. Just want to let you know that I quit smoking weed. Okay, see you. And I was like, Wait a minute.

Carol: What?

Reagan: Come back here. What are you talking about? Because we had never even made a plan to do that or a strategy or whatever. We just having these conversations about what was important to them, why it might be important to them to cut back, not even to quit. And then, boom, they quit. That happened multiple times. It was, like, shocking the results that I was seeing. It was very exciting.

Carol: Well, that's pretty awesome. Very awesome.

Reagan: It was awesome. And it just shows how potent doing the right thing is. We can burn a lot of time as counselors doing what we think is going to work and doesn't. If we have something that is going to work and it's powerful, we can get a lot done in a little bit of time.

Carol: You could say that again. And time is valuable. So if we can get a lot done in a little bit of time, then that is that's fantastic. That's what every counselor needs.

Reagan: Most of the counseling techniques we're taught aren't fast. Like, I use aspects of CBT as a school counselor, for sure, because it works. We know it works. It's been proven for decades. However, if you were to ask the CBT experts, they would say it's going to take five or six sessions of 45 minutes apiece to really see lasting results. Well, I don't have that kind of time as a school counselor. I need something that works fast. And so Mi is one of those. There are other brief counseling techniques, but Mi is one where most of the research done on Mi is done with one session of 15 to 20 minutes. We can do that. We have that kind of time. As school counselors.

Carol: If you could spend:

Reagan: Yeah. And it's not easy. CBT is complicated. That's why it takes some time. It's also true. The concepts you're teaching are true. That's why it's effective. But it takes time. It takes time that a lot of times we don't have. Right. I'm glad you brought up groups, though, because Mi absolutely works in groups, and it works even in classroom lessons. We have some evidence of that, too. So that's actually going to be the focus of my session at the Summer Counselor Conference, is how do we use Mi, not just with individuals, but in groups and even in classroom lessons.

Carol: Well, I know I am really looking forward to it. I can't wait to listen to your session and hear all the strategies and the tips that you have for us. And I think you're going to have a lot of people watching.

Reagan: I hope so, because I really believe in this stuff. And it was amazing to see kids change their own lives for the better. And I was just along for the ride. But man, motivational interview had a massive impact on how effective I was.

Carol: So, once again, for all of our people listening, reagan is going to be one of our presenters at the summer session, at the Summer Conference. And your session is motivational interviewing techniques for individual counseling, small groups and classroom lessons. So I think it's going to be fantastic. Before we go, when we say goodbye to Reagan, I do have a few other questions for you. Are you ready?

Reagan: Let's do it.

Carol: Okay. So if you had to be a car, what kind of car would you be and why?

Reagan: I'm going to be a hypocrite here, having talked about motivation changing your life for the better. But I would really like to be a Krispy Kreme truck because I like donuts and I really like the way Krispy Kreme smells. Now, some people listening have never been to a Krispy Kreme, and I'm very sorry for them. But if you're ever in a part of the country that has Krispy Kreme, you need to go in there, you need to get a warm donut and enjoy the aroma. And I just figure that if I was a truck, I would always have that smell going on.

Carol: Yeah, there is something about that Krispy Kreme smell. I will tell you. We do not have a Krispy Kreme like where I live, but there is one in Pennsylvania. So as I drive to my in law's house, my mother in law's sister in law's. There's a Krispy Kreme along the way, and my kids are always like, can we stop at Krispy Kreme? And there is probably no other smell out there like it.

Reagan: You have wise children. You're a good mother.

Carol: I love that. Krispy Kreme donut truck. Okay. All right, I have another question for you. Are you ready?

Reagan: Ready.

Carol: Okay. What is the last show that you have binged watched?

Reagan: I have to tell you, as a parent of small children, I do not have hobbies, per se. I do not have time for hobbies or shows, so I don't binge watch shows, so that's not a great question for me. Sorry.

Carol: With little kids, I would expect, like, the Little Mermaid or something. Okay.

Reagan: We're talking kids show. Absolutely. Okay. The best hit show going is Bluey, for sure. I love Bluey. And I mean, I love Louie. My kids love Louie, but I love bluey. I don't know if you're familiar with this show, Carol, but it is amazing. It is Australian shepherds, and they have these amazing eight minute family adventures, and they make me want to be a better parent. And there's not that many shows that help with your parenting skills, but Bluey is one of them. Like I want to be bluey's parents.

Carol: Well, I have never seen Bluey, I will admit to that. But I remember when my kids were younger, we used to watch a Canadian show called Pumper Pups, and everything in my house was all about the pumper pups, so it was cute.

Reagan: You got to check out Bluey. It's so good.

Carol: I will. I will check out Bluey. I like little kids shows. All right, well, this was really great, and I appreciate you taking the time out of your day in your summer to hang out with us a little bit and share some information with everyone about motivational interviewing.

Reagan: Happy to do it. Thanks for having me. That was fun, right?

Carol: And before we leave, is there a way that our listeners can get in touch with you?

Reagan: Absolutely. If people want to know more about motivational interviewing, I wrote a book called motivational Interviewing for School Counselors. So you can probably figure out what it's about. So you can check that out, and there's a Facebook page with the same name, or you can find me on Twitter at Reagan North, and I post random things about school counseling and motivational interviewing there as well.

Carol: Well, that's awesome. And I will make sure that I drop all those links in the show notes so that if people are looking for you or they want to get a copy of your book, that they can do.

Reagan: So awesome.

Carol: All right, well, for everyone who's out there that's listening, thanks for joining us today, and until we chat again, have a great day.

Carol: Thanks for listening to today's episode of Counselor Chat.

Carol: All of the links I talked about.

Carol: Can be found in the Show Notes and@counselingsentials.org Podcasts. Be sure to hit, follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind.

Carol: To leave a review, I'd really appreciate it. Want to connect?

Carol: Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials. Until next time. Can't wait till we chat. Bye for now.




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