MI for Adolescent Substance Use

Acquire practical Motivational Interviewing tools to help you manage challenging sessions with adolescent clients struggling with substance use.

Working with adolescents can be challenging enough without adding substance use issues to the mix. When teens’ age-appropriate desire for autonomy gets compromised by substance use and addiction, it can be difficult for clinicians to effectively navigate heightened levels of client ambivalence alongside their own “righting reflex”—their desire to fix their clients.

In this compelling new course, Sebastian Kaplan, PhD, and Ali Hall, JD, demonstrate how to manage these elements using tools from Motivational Interviewing, a client-centered alternative to traditional, often confrontational addiction treatment. Here, you’ll discover how to deepen rapport, diffuse resistance, and draw out adolescent clients’ intrinsic strengths.

Learn strategies to engage teenage clients who do not even want to be in your office, much less receive treatment, through clinical demonstrations with three adolescent clients using marijuana, heroin, and opiates. Develop your skills to support adolescent clients, without conveying the disrespect they might expect from adults in authority roles.

This course is a must If you’re seeking resources for teens, addiction and recovery, or client-centered counseling.

Course hosts: Sebastian Kaplan, PhD, and Victor Yalom, PhD

Counselors featured: Sebastian Kaplan, PhD. and Ali Hall, JD.


“Counselors working with adolescents know how we can easily fall into lecturing and the Righting Reflex. This video demonstrates the efficacy of MI with substance issues and shows the importance of reflection and affirmation in building the relationship with teenagers. The focus on change talk versus sustain talk in the session shows us how MI processes help counselors partner with teens and avoid discord that can rupture the therapeutic relationship.”

—Jane Webber,PhD, LPC, Lecturer, Counselor Education, Program, Kean University

“As a counselor educator, I struggle with finding modern and relevant media addressing adolescent substance use. This video is effective in explaining the application of Motivational Interviewing to teen substance use and speaks to clinician challenges of working with ambivalence and finding ways to collaborate with young people. The counselors demonstrate how to speak to youth in ways that support autonomy and choice, while also teasing out and promoting change talk. Dr. Kaplan and Ali Hall also provide examples of a wide variety of MI interventions, which will help clinicians new to the approach understand the potential for extensive application of these skills in complex clinical settings.” 

—Kristin Dempsey, LMFT, LPCC, Lecturer at San Francisco State University, Senior Associate, California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions

“Highly Recommended for anyone working with this population. I appreciate the difficult conversations portrayed in these scenarios as they represent common conversations with youth, particularly youth who are ambivalent about changing their relationship to substances. Of particular use are the multiple ways that the therapists avoid the righting reflex, and focus on engaging and focusing. Each of the conversations in this video provides robust demonstrations of the MI spirit in action.”

—Stéphanie Wahab PhD, Professor, School of Social Work, Portland State University


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