GALVESTON — Professors Dr. Charity Kurz and Randel Duncan, MA, LPC-S, presented at the 61st annual Texas Counseling Association Growth Conference, held in Galveston on Nov. 15-18.

Texas Counseling Association (TCA) is the state chapter of the American Counseling Association, a national professional organization for those involved in the counseling profession. Approximately 2,000 participants attend each year which include Licensed Professional Counselors, Certified School Counselors, professors from Counselor Educator graduate programs and graduate students.

Kurz and Duncan’s session was entitled, “Applying Motivational Interviewing Techniques to Underachieving College Students.” The session was a refereed presentation, meaning it was chosen by TCA through a blind review process that places selection on the merits of the presentation and its potential value to conference participants.

In a 90 minute presentation, Kurz and Duncan focused on introducing the basic principles of Motivational Interviewing (MI), the supporting research for its effectiveness, and a theoretical framework for utilizing MI with underachieving college students. Duncan says that MI guides clients in taking ownership over their motivations, in gaining self-efficacy, and in changing behaviors. “At the heart of MI are the beliefs that the power to change rests within the client (autonomy) and that collaboration (rather than confrontation) is a more effective method for exploring and overcoming resistance to change,” he says.

Kurz says that her and Duncan’s presentation made a case for how professionals should be able to apply the technique at a post-secondary level and promote student success. Research indicates that Motivational Interviewing has been effective in working with high school and college students in changing unwanted behaviors. In addition, research suggests college students who struggle with study skills, drive, time management, and retention might benefit from Motivational Interviewing.

As they work daily with students, Kurz and Duncan see the importance of motivational techniques for students. Duncan, a University Counselor at SAGU, says that he and Kurz chose a topic that could be of potential benefit for the university context.

“College students are often transitioning to adulthood, moving away from dependence on parents, and seeking to make their own decisions on based on their own values, goals, and merits," says Duncan. “Attempting to make college students change through extrinsic motivation will often result in short-lived successes. MI provides the opportunity for students to experience better long-term outcomes.”

As a Counseling Educator, Kurz says that she discusses motivation with students by encouraging them to balance their commitments and take ownership over deadlines. “It doesn’t have to be a heavy weight, but it can be something that propels them and motivates them to move forward,” Kurz says. “Giving them the power back, asking them what they are going to do about it, and helping them feel like they own it, it can help to foster autonomy.”

In addition to presenting together, both Dr. Kurz and Duncan led separate presentations during the conference. Dr. Kurz presented, “Creative Interventions Toolbox: Counseling Children and Adolescents.” This session was live-streamed and between 375-400 conference participants were in attendance. Kurz, who teaches the Counseling Children and Adolescence course at SAGU, says that the goal of her individual presentation was to equip counselors with practical tools and theory-based evidence for their interventions with students.

Duncan’s second presentation on “Ethical Decision Making for Professional Counselors: Social Media, Electronic Communication, and Counseling Websites” was a collaborative effort with his doctoral cohort and professors from Texas Tech University. Duncan says that the internet can pose challenges to maintaining client confidentiality and professional boundaries between counselors and their clients. The purpose of the session was to focus on the importance of maintaining the ethical practice.

The participant response to Kurz and Duncan’s sessions was extremely positive. Duncan’s individual session prompted valuable discussions regarding the profession, and Kurz was approached by multiple participants, thanking her for her practical approach to applying theories. Duncan says that following their collaborative MI session, “Many expressed appreciation how the presentation gave them a ‘taste of MI’ and left them wanting to pursue more information and training.”

Both Kurz and Duncan say it was an honor to represent SAGU and have future hopes to turn their research on MI into a publication.