We’ve discussed in class times when advisors may need to talk to students who are struggling and who don’t seem to be a good fit for their program. In these cases, the issue is likely not that the student isn’t smart or motivated. The student is likely not in a field or program that he / she really wants to be in. A good advisor could have a constructive conversation with the student that could lead to the student making the decision to pursue a program that’s better aligned with his interests, rather than the advisor just telling the student that he isn’t a good fit for a graduate program and leaving the student feeling like he doesn’t belong in graduate education.
These discussions led me to think about Motivational Interviewing, which is a counseling style that I help teach as part of the Health Counseling course I TA for. Basically, in Motivational Interviewing the goal is to assist the client with finding his / her own motivation for change and building commitment to change. The counselor uses a guiding style of communication rather than a directing (telling the client what to do) style.
I think that Motivational Interviewing could be successfully utilized by advisors having these difficult conversations with their students. Through using Motivational Interviewing strategies like asking open-ended questions and affirming the positive, the advisor could guide the student towards making a decision that best fits with his / her goals and values in life.
Is anyone else in a field that uses Motivational Interviewing? If so, have you had interactions with professors / advisors who used the style? How do think it would work when advising students?