The theoretical foundations of MiiWrap

In this article:
Each skill and process of MiiWrap is informed by research into why change happens. This is the science of the theory of change.

Each skill, behavior, and process in MiiWrap is deliberate. Each is specifically designed to lead to the ultimate MiiWrap goal: lasting behavior change. How? As MiiWrap developed, our guiding framework described how and why lasting behavior change would happen. We began with a clear idea of the desired goal and how we would meet it. This is often called the theory of change. It is the understanding of how the ultimate program goal is reached, of why each step of the process is expected to lead to change.

Developing programs with the aid of a theory of change helps keep them deliberate and effective. The theory of change not only guides development of programs, but provides a framework for evaluating how a program is going. The theory of change describes the process through which change occurs.

The general overview of the MiiWrap theory of change states that lasting behavior change is impacted by a person’s motivation and belief in their ability to change, both of which can be improved by meeting certain basic psychological needs. MiiWrap focuses on supporting youth and families to increase motivation and self-efficacy through an interaction-based approach that supports behavior change. Team supported activities are all guided by the MiiWrap core beliefs. This figure shows the outline of the MiiWrap theory of change.

MiiWrap theory of change


Motivation and the pathway to lasting behavior change

Understanding and supporting motivation for and self-efficacy to change is a central focus of MiiWrap. There are different types of motivation. Some motivations are external. When a person experiences external motivation, their motivation for doing something is a reward or to avoid a punishment. On the opposite end of the spectrum is when a person does something for the pure joy of doing it. And there are all types of motivation in between. That’s where a lot of every day actions take place, somewhere in the middle. And that’s where making complex behavioral changes fits in. Behavioral change is hard, and rarely done for its own enjoyment, but motivation for change can still be internalized. This happens when the reasons for making the change align with a person’s systems of belief. While substance abuse counseling may be hard, a person can have internal motivations to attend because they see their future sober.

Self-determination research posits these internalized motivations are most likely to lead to lasting behavior change. MiiWrap builds on the strengths, values, and core goals of the youth and family to strengthen internalized motivation, especially in situations where change is mandated. Motivation is elicited from the youth and family and is initially seen as change talk. Preparatory change talk signals desire, ability, reasons, and need to make a change. Eliciting change talk from the individual guides them to make their own case for change, strengthens motivation, and prepares the individual to begin change efforts.


MiiWrap meeting basic psychological needs

Motivation and self-efficacy are improved when a person feels safe and able to develop. When a person is in an environment that meets their basic psychological needs, motivation and self-efficacy can become stronger. MiiWrap is designed to provide an environment in which basic psychological needs can be met, with the ultimate goal of improving motivation and creating lasting behavior change. There are three basic psychological needs MiiWrap focuses on meeting: competence, autonomy, and inter-relatedness.

Increased competence

The first is the need for competence. Humans seek mastery of their environment and through this mechanism grow, develop skills, and adapt to changing environments. People who do not have the opportunity to show mastery in their environment often become less and less motivated and have less belief in their ability to accomplish anything. Repeated failure reinforces the belief that it isn’t worth it to try. Competence is increased through increased support, watching others in similar situations achieve success, achieving success, and increasing motivation for change and belief in the to be successful. MiiWrap provides for each of these components of competence.

The second basic psychological need is the need for autonomy. By using the spirit of MiiWrap, MiiWrap staff are autonomy supportive. The MiiWrap process is a collaborative partnership, in which staff do the process with the family using a guiding style, not to or for them. MiiWrap relational and change skills, including rolling with resistance, eliciting change talk, and exploring options, create an autonomy supportive environment in which a person feels supported to develop their autonomy and make their own choices. Staff also strive to create a context for a person that supports their autonomy by emphasizing autonomy to the rest of their team.

Increased autonomy
Increased relatedness

The third basic psychological need is the need for inter-relatedness. The MiiWrap mindset and empathy support relatedness by providing an environment in which the person feels heard and understood. As a team-supported process, MiiWrap integrates support from professional services and natural supports. This integration creates stronger relationships and networks on which the person can rely. Strengthened natural support systems are critical to sustained behavior change as natural supports linger after formal services have ended.


The importance of context to MiiWrap success

The ultimate success of the MiiWrap process requires acknowledging the complex interaction of a person with their environment. Personal characteristics impact the relationship between a person, the MiiWrap staff, and other people and systems. Each person starts the MiiWrap process with different skills and experiences which requires each engagement to be unique and appropriate. A person’s characteristics and beliefs impact the way they see the world and the world sees them.  

The success of the process also depends on the success of involving a person’s team in the MiiWrap process and spirit. People receiving MiiWrap have complex needs, and many systems are involved in their behavior change process. It is important that these systems, including schools, professionals, extended family, friends, work, other service agencies, understand that meeting a person’s basic psychological needs is the pathway through which lasting change will be made. If the persons environment is not supportive of this, it will be harder for them to internalize motivation and develop self-efficacy. Coordination of systems also creates a more streamlined process with fewer competing demands to which the person must attend.


Measuring success with the theory of change

The MiiWrap theory of change informs each MiiWrap interaction. It also provides a framework by which success can be measured. Are staff providing the tools a person needs to be successful? Are people improving their motivation and belief in their ability to change? The theory of change shows us that lasting behavior change depends on the answers to these questions.

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  • […] increased motivation, and creates the collaborative partnership that is integral to success. The theory of change details that the overarching goal of MiiWrap is based on meeting three fundamental psychological […]

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