Purpose. Offender motivation is one specific responsivity variable in offender treatment and motivational interviewing (MI) is commonly used by corrections personnel. Although evidence for the effectiveness of motivational interviewing is accruing overall, a review of MI specifically with offender populations is required.

Method. Relevant databases and websites were searched using terms relating to MI with offenders.

Results. In total, 13 published studies and 6 dissertation abstracts were identified. MI is most evaluated in relation to substance misusing offenders (N=10). Other applications are with domestic violence offenders (N=3), drink-drivers (N=5), and general offending (N=1). In these populations, MI is used to enhance retention and engagement in treatment, improve motivation for change, and change behaviour.

Conclusions. MI can lead to improved retention in treatment, enhanced motivation to change, and reduced offending, although there are variations across studies. To advance the study of MI with offenders, a theory of change needs to be articulated on which testable hypotheses may be based. The integrity of treatment in its application needs to be assured. Based on these foundations, more outcome research is needed to examine who responds to what type of MI in relation to treatment retention, readiness to change, and reconviction.