Motivational Interviewing as a Therapeutic Strategy for Trafficked Persons

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It is estimated that 40 million people worldwide have experienced human trafficking (UN, International Labour Organization & Walk-Free Foundation, 2019), with 313,000 trafficked persons in the state of Texas alone (Busch-Armendariz et al., 2016). These staggering numbers are indicative of human trafficking as a growing public health concern. To date researchers have neither studied nor proposed a specific psychotherapeutic modality in the treatment of trafficked persons. Given the unique concerns of this populations, including mistrust of authority, emotional coercion, and abuse by traffickers, often co-occurring substance use concerns, and difficulty with standard treatment adherence, we propose a therapeutic strategy that might assist providers in addressing a broad range of concerns, particularly assisting trafficked persons in the effort to leave their situation. This strategy is motivational interviewing (MI; Miller et al., 2009) and has shown substantial efficacy to enhance motivation to change as applied within in a broad range of healthcare settings. We briefly review the broad tenants of MI and illustrate its application within two hypothetical cases of trafficking. Future research that examines the potential benefits of MI within trafficking populations is warranted.

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