The origins of MiiWrap: an interview with Jim Rast

In this article:
How we went from Wraparound to MiiWrap, and lessons learned along the way.

Over the past few months, we’ve introduced MiiWrap through our website. We presented research that shows that MiiWrap results in increased engagement, motivation and outcomes for youth and families compared to wraparound.  We devoted pages to describing the integration of Wraparound and Motivational Interviewing, the MiiWrap theory of change, mindset and interactional skills, and blogs about implementation. We are training and coaching MiiWrap. Sites across North America are finding it can be used to increase engagement, reduce resistance, and lead to lasting change. In this blog, an interview with Jim Rast discusses how MiiWrap came to be.

Why MiiWrap?

Why did Vroon VDB stop training Wraparound? Why do you now train MiiWrap instead?

“I’ve been training and coaching high fidelity Wraparound since 1998, and my previous partner John VanDenBerg, 12 years before that. Wraparound is a great framework for person-centered services. It’s network focused; acknowledging that people exist within their families and communities, and support from these systems is often integral to success. There’s a lot to love about Wraparound. However, perhaps because I’ve seen so much of it, there are shortcomings as well. The way staff interact with families isn’t prescribed in Wraparound, so communication style is inconsistent. Too many families are resistant to the process or making the needed changes to achieve their visions and have low levels of engagement. The more I saw, the more I believed these were addressable shortcomings. But nothing within the Wraparound model could address them. We needed to teach staff how to interact with families in a way that elicited the youth and family’s own motivation and self-efficacy and supported families to make their own goals and to believe they could achieve them. This is what MiiWrap does. It teaches skills to staff that directly address problems of engagement, resistance, and motivation. Through providing skills for successful communication.”

Why not teach Wraparound staff some Motivational Interviewing skills, instead of developing a whole new program?

“We actually tried that. In 2008, we added a brief Motivational Interviewing component to our Wraparound trainings. But we saw inconsistent changes in communication skills in trainees. We then recommended that all Wraparound staff and coaches be separately trained in Motivational Interviewing by MINT recognized motivational interviewing trainers. However, a separate training was burdensome and the use of Motivational Interviewing in the Wraparound process remained inconsistent. It wasn’t until we started training an integrated version of Wraparound and Motivational Interviewing that we saw consistent improvement in staff communication skills and family outcomes.”

More about MiiWrap

Is MiiWrap really that different from Wraparound? 

“At first, I didn’t imagine it would be. But as it turns out, the MiiWrap theory of change, mindset and skills make it a very different process from Wraparound. MiiWrap emphasizes the importance of eliciting motivation and self-efficacy from the youth and families and provides staff with the skills to do this. It builds on the comprehensive structure for supporting people through the change process defined in Wraparound. But it integrates the MiiWrap theory of change and mindset into each activity. As we developed the integrated model, David Duresky and I discovered that some activities needed to be refined, while others needed to be added to meld the activities and structure of Wraparound with the skills of Motivational Interviewing. There are many positive aspects of Motivational Interviewing and Wraparound. We believe that integrated MiiWrap enables Motivational Interviewing and Wraparound to support one another in a way that is not possible when they are learned in isolation.”

Is MiiWrap better than Wraparound, or just different? 

“We truly believe MiiWrap will provide better outcomes for more people and initial research is finding significant improvements. We’ve seen success with the most resistant families, exactly like families we have seen be unsuccessful in Wraparound. While Wraparound still provides a great structure for supporting families who are motivated to make changes, it lacks the consistent interactional skills to engage and motivate families who are more ambivalent or resistant to the process or change.  Many of the youth and families who need Wrapround level of services need this support for engagement and motivation. MiiWrap directly addresses motivation for change, something without which long-term change is unlikely.”


When did the idea for MiiWrap come to be?

“In 2005 we began to notice inconsistency in the communication skills and style used by Wrapround staff. This led to lack of engagement, resistance, and low motivation to change in some families. Around this time, two of my colleagues, Steven Rosenberg and David Duresky, suggested Motivational Interviewing may be a good tool to help with these communication inconsistencies.”

How did these communication inconsistencies lead to MiiWrap?

“We added a Motivational Interviewing component to all Wraparound trainings starting in 2008. At the time, we believed teaching Wraparound staff communication skills would be sufficient to overcoming the problems we noted. We tried this for several years, adding Motivational Interviewing to all trainings and textbooks, and suggesting separate Motivational Interviewing training for all Wraparound staff. But we continued to see inconsistency in communication skills, and realized we needed to provide a structure for using Motivational Interviewing skills in the Wraparound process.”

When did you start training MiiWrap?

“It took a while for the idea of MiiWrap to translate into training. I started writing the Foundations of MiiWrap textbook in 2016 with David Duresky. While writing, we built a learning community of about 30 certified trainers, coaches, and Wraparound process mentors. They gave us insight into the facilitation of such a service, as well as the family support required for success.

“In the same year, we began training and coaching the new integrated MiiWrap model. We saw more consistent impact than we saw when training Wraparound and Motivational Interviewing separately. The integrated model gave coaches and staff a consistent structure and unified focus for their efforts. It also described the MiiWrap mindset, which informs every interaction for MiiWrap staff.

“In 2019 we started investing in comprehensive online training. We have been building a platform that provides training quality on par with in-person training, with some added benefits such as administrative convenience. We are now starting to train online in earnest with the completion of the online Foundations of MiiWrap training.”


Who has been involved in the creation of MiiWrap?

“This has been a long process, something I’ve been thinking of since 2005. Along the way, there has been a lot of input and support from colleagues in Wraparound and Motivational Interviewing. From the identification of a need to the implementation of a new training, many people have been involved in the MiiWrap journey.

“I’ve been training and researching Wraparound since 1998. I understand the good and the bad parts of Wraparound. But I didn’t have the same familiarity with the intricacies of Motivational Interviewing. The people I worked with along the way have been integral to the developmental of MiiWrap. This includes colleagues David Duresky and Steven Rosenberg, who have expertise in Motivational Interviewing. I also consulted with the developers of Motivational Interviewing, William Miller, Teresa Moyer and Denise Ernst.

 “Many colleagues have been excited to implement MiiWrap at their own agencies, and to them I am exceedingly grateful. Their experience implementing the new program has been invaluable in our continued development of MiiWrap curriculum and training.

“From the very beginning of an idea to the complete integration of Wraparound and Motivational Interviewing, hundreds of people across North America have helped shape MiiWrap.”

Jim was called to create MiiWrap, addressing shortcoming of Wraparound he saw time after time. What about you? If you feel the call to change how you serve, maybe MiiWrap is right for your agency.

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