New Zealand Department of Corrections – Motivational Interviewing Online Pilot | HMA

New Zealand Department of Corrections

Motivational Interviewing Online Pilot

Overall I found the experience uplifting and positive. I have some useful strategies to use in my work and believe I am better informed as to new language and concepts that are now part of motivational interviewing as it is used in the present.

Probation Officer

The Background

New Zealand Department of Corrections was created in 1995, after their twentieth anniversary, they have nearly 8,000 staff members who each week manage over 35,000 sentences and orders in the community, and over 9,000 people in prison. The Department is working to continue delivering against the Reducing Re-Offending work programme. Through this programme they supported 7,950 prison-based and 5,267 community-based offenders to start a rehabilitation programme, over 3,000 offenders in the community to receive education and job skills training and 10,620 prisoners to participate in employment related activities within prison.

The Challenge

Motivational interviewing has long been recognised as a core skill set in working with people where there is ambivalence towards behaviour change. Non-completion of education, training, and support activities is not only costly, it is also linked to a higher risk of reoffending and greater frequency in offending rates. In order to develop desistance to further offending resolving ambivalence about change, planning for different behaviours, as well as building commitment are three key factors.

Building a workforce that consistently works to motivate readiness to change is a core skill set. There is always a risk of those who offend doing time on sentence rather than focusing on changing the influence of stable risk factors and learning to manage acute risk factors.

During 2012 HMA helped NZDC to develop a three day in room training package for probation staff across the organisation. A train the trainer model was utilised to transfer learning content to internal trainers. This has provided a strong base for motivational interviewing within the organisation. However like many initiatives maintaining traction is always the challenge. Also ensuring new staff start as they mean to continue in terms of the relational aspect of sentence management (the primacy effect), means that approaches often compete for attention during induction training.

The Solution

During 2015 HMA worked with the principal probation officer to develop a project to support further implementation and pilot a new approach within NZDC. This approach involved supporting three practice leaders to become MINT accredited trainers which took place in Melbourne during early August.

Concurrently with this initiative four practice leaders were trained as mentors to support the pilot of HMA’s six module online MI learning package. For the pilot each had four probation officers or sentence planners who work through a module at a time, before meeting together as a small cohort to discuss the learning and implications for practice.

The next step in the process is to introduce the online package with two cohorts of new probation staff. The internally trained MINTies will have responsibility for training other practice leaders to support new probation staff through the package. HMA has also developed a slimmed down package for prison officer training (New Zealand and Australian version). We believe that prison officers who are in daily contact with prisoners, having a key role in encouraging compliance with sentence conditions.

The Return on Expectation

We are of the view that having mentors attached to learners is the key to being able to fully integrate the ideas into practice.

Breaking the experience into modules also minimises training waste and increases learning transfer for participants. All of us have had the experience of attending a two-day training event and taking away only one or two things. The approach adopted in this learning and development design is platforming learning. As one practice leader commented, “The best thing about it is how it allows the learners to grasp one thing before moving on.”

Take a look at what else people had to say:

Through the face to face mentor time we could give participants opportunities to learn at their own pace, creating an environment for them to openly share challenges they are facing and give examples of MI use.

Practice Leader

This is front end stuff. The forefront of everything we do, every way we work with offenders.


The face to face mentor time after each online module was critical.