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What is Motivational Interviewing (MI)?

Learn more about motivational interviewing (MI), how it works, and if it is the appropriate treatment option for you.

Table of Contents

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is generally advocated as an evidence-based method for changing behavior. While definitions vary greatly, motivational interviewing (MI) in its most basic form is a client-centered counseling approach aimed at assisting people to make a good behavior change within an accepting and compassionate environment.
Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Is Motivational Interviewing an Effective Treatment?

There are many benefits of motivational interviewing. This approach is especially successful for people with mixed feelings about behavioral change. The focus of motivational interviewing strategies is exploring and resolving feelings of uncertainty while emphasizing empathy and cooperation to improve self-efficacy and motivation to change. MI encourages change in a way that is consistent with an individual’s beliefs and concerns rather than imposing change.1

Several studies have been conducted to determine the effects of MI on adolescents and the adaptability and overall efficacy of motivational interviewing therapy. Conclusions from the analysis found motivational interviewing strategies to be similar to or better than other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication, and superior to non-treatment controls for reducing alcohol and drug use. Motivational interviewing for addiction showed 51% improvement rates and a 56% reduction in client drinking.2

How Does It Work?

The relationship between the counselor and the patient is emphasized during motivational counseling. People can often compare this relationship to coaching relationships, as the counselor serves as the patient’s guide and support system as they undergo treatment.

During MI, a counselor typically works to stimulate and engage the patient’s inherent motivation through innovative techniques and approaches. The counselor further engages the patient as an equal partner and refrains from confronting or warning the patient. Instead, they present change to the patient as a process with many steps and coach the patient through setting and achieving goals in a loving and accepting way.

Key Principles of Motivational Interviewing

Although every person’s journey is unique, counselors typically adhere to five guiding motivational interviewing principles, especially while motivational interviewing substance abuse patients. These principles are detailed below.

Express Empathy

In motivational intervention, counselors utilize emotional interviewing to comprehend the situation from the client’s perspective and to convey empathy by listening carefully and making a nonjudgmental inquiry about the patient’s condition.3

Develop Discrepancy

Motivational interviewing skills employed by counselors are built on the notion that when people see the difference between where they are and where they want to be, they become more driven to make a change. It aims to spotlight a person’s tendencies in front of them with respect and compassion to get them where they ought to be.4

Avoid Arguments

Not arguing with patients is a major principle of motivational interviewing therapy, as it can be detrimental. Counselors instead attempt to involve uncertain patients in constructive recovery and to help them extend their perspectives.

Adjust to Resistance

Motivational interviewing psychology understands that how resistance is met impacts the therapy outcome for the patient, which assists in helping them gain a fresh perspective of themselves and their actions.

Support Self-Efficacy

Through motivational therapy, particularly motivational interviewing for addiction, counselors can boost individuals’ self-efficacy. This is done by highlighting their existing capabilities and qualities and reinforcing their ability to make the desired changes.5

Spirit of Motivational Interviewing

The spirit of motivational interviewing illustrates guiding concepts, such as acknowledging the patient’s strengths and efforts toward change and shepherding the change process, all while respecting the client’s independence. The purpose of motivational interviewing is reflected in three elements: collaboration instead of confrontation, evocation rather than education, and autonomy over authority.

Collaboration Instead of Confrontation

The primary practice of motivational interviewing is collaboration. A partnership is developed between counselor and client to build rapport and trust in the journey toward change.

Evocation Rather Than Education

Instead of forcing change on an individual, (MI) elicits a patient’s reasons and capacity for change. Therefore, the purpose of motivational interviewing is to assist in access to personal wisdom and resources.6

Autonomy Over Authority

Motivational interviewing techniques are based on the idea that clients’ autonomy should be respected, and collaborative participation fostered. This process achieves the goal of motivational interviewing to empower the client while instilling a sense of accountability for their deeds.

Techniques of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing techniques are considered unique since they empower people to take responsibility for their recovery. Counselors engage in several motivational interviewing techniques to aid people in exploring their thoughts and discovering their motivations by employing seemingly simple yet powerful motivational interviewing strategies such as:
  • Open-ended questions: Motivational interviewing questions elicit and explore an individual’s experiences, viewpoints, and thoughts. This help to assist the person in reflecting on how change may be significant or feasible.
  • Affirmations: Affirmative statements recognize a person’s strengths, efforts, and admirable traits. Affirmations in motivational interviewing encourage hope and faith in a person’s ability to change.
  • Reflective Listening: A fundamental factor of motivational interviewing reflections is the expression of empathy. This empathy serves as motivational support to an individual that the counselor is paying attention to and attempting to comprehend their perspective.
  • Summaries: This guarantees comprehension among all parties and emphasizes the patient’s main ideas. Through summaries, counselors can demonstrate their motivational interviewing skills by showing that they understood what was discussed and that they had listened to the patient.

What Motivational Interviewing Can Help With

The fundamental goal of motivational interviewing is to help people find the motivation to embrace positive change in their life. This goal has proven to be a valuable rehabilitation approach in addressing a wide range of physiological and behavioral health conditions, including:
  • Substance use disorder
  • Smoking
  • Weight loss
  • Medication adherence
  • Cancer care
  • Diabetes care
  • Health behaviors among children

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

Research has regularly proven the effectiveness of motivational interviewing in boosting a person’s readiness to discontinue drug use, lowering the intensity of substance use, and lengthening periods of abstinence. Additional benefits of motivational interviewing include:

  • Building the client’s self-confidence and trust in themselves
  • Helping clients take responsibility for themselves and for their actions
  • Lowering the chance of future relapse
  • Preparing clients to become more receptive to a variety of treatments
  • Showing clients that they have the power to change their lives themselves

How to Get Started with Motivational Interviewing

The decision to begin motivational counseling is the first stage in the motivational therapy process. Once it has been determined that this course of action will be advantageous, several options exist for getting started. Steps to beginning motivational interviewing treatment include:
  • Find a trained counselor: Your primary care doctor is best positioned to suggest motivational interviewing activities and a suitable referral. Also, it may benefit you to seek care from expert support institutions such as Boardwalk Recovery.
  • Check with your health insurance: Your health insurance company can provide a list of therapists covered by your policy.
  • Prepare for the first session: Knowing what to anticipate during the motivational interviewing process aids in decreasing some anxiety. Motivational therapy sessions are often brief and allow you to examine your values and learn what motivates you.
Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Get Motivational Interviewing at Boardwalk Recovery

We understand how tough making even the most positive life adjustments may be. As a result, our motivational interviewing approach at Boardwalk Recovery is in place to assist patients in addressing and changing attitudes that may stop them from making healthier lifestyle choices. The Boardwalk Recovery motivational approach understands your difficulties and is individually adjusted to meet your needs while enlisting your participation as an active agent in your quest for change.

Please contact us at Boardwalk Recovery for additional details on motivational counseling or have questions about starting a motivational intervention program with us.
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