Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


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Blankley, K., PytlikZillig, L. M., Speck, K. (2017). Applying motivational interviewing to parenting act mediation: The promise of the process. The Nebraska Lawyer, January/February, 31-36.


Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a research-based method of helping people engage in behavior change. MI tools and strategies have been used successfully to help people tackle drug and alcohol addiction, weight loss, and other unhealthy behaviors. MI methods aim to uncover and support a person's desire to change while simultaneously respecting an individual's autonomy. Historically, Ml has been employed in support settings, such as counselors working with clients. In Nebraska, probation officers now employ MI practices to help encourage positive changes while still maintaining accountability if people choose not to follow the terms of their probation.

Mediation is all about change. Parties come to mediation because at least one party is unsatisfied with the status quo. Parties who reach an agreement, in essence, agree to change in some respect. In no place is the change more prevalent than in parenting act mediation. Parenting plan mediations almost always involve questions of changing parental arrangements, bettering party communications, and ensuring the best interests of children.

The synergies between the two processes hold a lot of promise. MI skills help people plan and support change. Parenting act mediation involves putting a plan together for parties that explicitly describes changes in relationships, interactions, and parenting. Mediation, however, involves a situation that Ml research has yet to test--whether MI skills can be employed successfully in a situation involving a neutral party with opposing parties.

With the support of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Social Behavioral Science Research Consortium, we are undertaking a pilot study in which mediators from The Mediation Center in Lincoln are being trained in MI skills. This article gives some background on MI, mediation, and that ongoing pilot project.