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Motivational Interviewing as Evidence-Based Practice? An Example from Sexual Risk Reduction Interventions Targeting Adolescents and Young Adults

Journal article
Authors Julia Bahner
K. Stenqvist
Published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy
ISSN 1868-9884
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Social Work
Language en
Keywords Evidence-based practice, Motivational interviewing, Scoping review, Sexual health policy, SRHR, Youth and young adults
Subject categories Social Work


This paper critically examines sexual risk reduction interventions, more specifically how they are evaluated and the implications that this has for sexual health policy. The focus is on motivational interviewing (MI) interventions which aim to promote protective behaviors related to sexual risk on the part of young people. MI has become increasingly popular, largely due to it being a highly flexible counseling approach that may, with adequate staff training, and fidelity in implementation, be tailored to many different settings (e.g., health care, schools and in community work). Following a scoping review that comprised 34 papers, of which 29 were unique studies, the range and type of existing research were examined. The results show a wide range of study designs and evaluation procedures, MI conceptualizations, modes of MI delivery, and the particular sub-populations of youth and sexual risk behaviors targeted. While this makes it difficult to draw any generalized conclusions about “what works” in prevention, it provides important insights about the complexity of sexual risk behavior as well as complex behavioral treatment approaches like MI. We therefore problematize the political drive to implement evidence-based methods without adequate resource allocation and contextual adaptation. © 2019, The Author(s).

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