New study on school-based “motivation interviewing mentorship” intervention in India

Hart, M. J., Sable, R., Gupta, A., Boddu, J., & McQuillin, S. D. (2022). Adapting a school-based motivational interviewing mentoring program for use in India. School Psychology International, 43(2), 196–216.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Youth mentoring is a common approach that is increasingly being implemented abroad to promote supportive, caring relationships and positive youth outcomes.
  • Given the socio-economic situation in India, where there is an elevated need for youth support, youth mentoring can help address the problem.
  • This study examines an international research-practice partnership that adapted a motivational interviewing (MI)-based youth mentoring curriculum, called AMPED*, to India’s Mentor Together program via the Cultural Adaptive Framework**.
  • Although the program ended prematurely due to the pandemic, it provided lessons about establishing international partnerships.
  • It was important for AMPED to provide Indian youth with less open-ended activities than for the American counterparts to make the program more accessible and acceptable to participants. This has some implications for how other programs adapt their’ design to cater to collectivist cultures.
  • Other people and/or organizations can refer to Mentor Together’s plans for new content development that align with MI.
  • Task-shifting youth services to mentoring relationships can benefit Indian youth who need extra support but have a hard time accessing traditional services

* = Academic Mentoring Program for Education and Development 

** = This framework provides guidance on adapting mental health-oriented social interventions for low & middle-income countries. 

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

We report on the process of planning, adapting, and implementing a brief, instrumental, school-based mentoring curriculum originally developed in the United States, in three cities in India. India has the world’s largest population of young adults aged 10-24 years, a developmental period associated with heightened psychosocial stressors and the onset of mental health issues, as well as a dire shortage of mental health professionals. Moving services that are typically provided by highly skilled professionals to individuals with fewer credentials or less formal training (e.g., from psychologists to mentors) can increase access to adolescent mental health services. Yet, transferring programs internationally is accompanied by unique barriers including cultural differences, and should be guided by an established framework. In this paper, we discuss the formation of a research-practice partnership designed to generate applied knowledge through emic cultural perspectives. We describe each stage of the program adaptation process within the Cultural Adaptation Framework ( Fendt-Newlin et al., 2020), including our decisions to strategically adjust, remove, or retain content from the original mentoring intervention. Although program delivery was prematurely discontinued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we provide a brief synopsis of lessons learned through the international partnership.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This paper describes an international research-practice partnership that sought to adapt AMPED, an MI-based youth mentoring curriculum, for delivery in India using the Cultural Adaptation Framework. Despite the premature and sudden termination of the program, reviewing these efforts can be valuable to international audiences who work with youth. Specifically, this work (a) discusses the use of a social intervention designed to improve academic functioning, mental health, and wellbeing in youth internationally, (b) follows a framework designed for adapting interventions to low- and middle-income countries, and (c) highlights the importance of community and cultural sensitivity in interventions and programming. Features of this work, such as determining the feasibility, modeling the intervention, and piloting AMPED in India, can inform future efforts to provide community- and school-based mental health services to youth across the globe.

One theme that emerged as a necessary adaptation (i.e., to make materials acceptable and accessible to youth participants) in planning AMPED for Indian youth was making activities less open-ended for mentees than in the original U.S. trials (e.g., by providing participants with a menu of options, or scaffolding activities). This decision may inform or transfer to other efforts to adapt programs from cultures that are largely individualistic (i.e., those that prize autonomy, independence, and uniqueness, such as the U.S.) to those that are collectivistic (i.e., those in which social rules emphasize common goals, such as India). Although open questions are considered a pillar of MI (Miller & Rollnick, 2002), previous MI-based interventions implemented in India have also shown success (i.e., increased participants’ motivation to end unhealthy behaviors; Lakshmana, 2016) after adapting therapeutic processes. In addition to reporting no issues with maintaining the spirit of MI in cultural adaptations, other clinical researchers in India have called for expanding the use of MI throughout the country (Lakshmana, 2016).

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