Online Training for Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is an evidence-based approach used by counselors, educators, medical professionals, correctional officers, and others to change patient or client behavior. It can help people smoke less, exercise more, follow through with recommendations, keep commitments, and more.

A team of faculty, professionals, and students at the University of Utah hope to make motivational interviewing training more common and accessible through a new online training platform and company. They launched their product, Enhanced Motivational Interviewing, and their company, eSym, in 2019 and already have clients.

The development and launch of the company was supported during the 2018-19 academic year through the Lassonde New Venture Development Center, which matches graduate students with faculty inventors and industry partners to develop business ideas. The team included Michelle King, an MBA student; Esabelle Khaosanga, a law student; and Ky-Phuong Luong and Siyu Chen, who are both biology Ph.D. students.

“We did market research, but our most in-depth research had to do with delivery of the final product,” King said. “We provided information on multiple learning management systems and mass open online classes to help the company decide which route would be the most cost effective, scalable, and adoptive approach to launch their product.”

Brian Connors, president of eSym, used concepts from motivational interviewing while earning his Ph.D. in rehabilitation science from the U in 2018. After graduation, he teamed with Brad Lundahl, a faculty member in the College of Social Work, to develop a flipped classroom style of learning that increases efficiency by allowing students to learn at their own pace and practice before receiving live coaching and feedback. Cassia Connors, vice president of business development, is also on the team and a 2017 graduate of the U’s MBA program.

Learn more about Enhanced Motivational Interviewing by eSym at

More articles like this in ‘Student Innovation @ the U!’

Find this article and a lot more in the 2020 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.

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