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Motivational Interviewing

man and woman sitting on a porch at a table and talking

Occasionally, we all need help finding motivation to make necessary changes in our lives. Motivational interviewing is a therapy technique designed to do just that. Considered a type of “brief” therapy, motivational interviewing is short-term, practical, and goal-oriented. It’s a good approach for people who have already gained a high level of insight from previous treatment and who are looking for practical ways to apply that insight. This type of therapy focuses less on symptoms and distress and more on problem-solving and change strategies.

Motivational interviewing seeks to motivate clients to make positive changes by helping them identify patterns and behaviors they want to change; by increasing their knowledge of the importance of change; and by developing practical steps to help them make those changes. Therapists who use this approach recognize that goals for change must be small, realistic, specific and present or future-oriented.

3 Important Facts

  • Motivational interviewing was developed by two psychologists in the 1980s.
  • Those with substance abuse issues may find motivational interviewing particularly effective.
  • Therapists who use motivational interviewing recognize that change can’t be forced. They help the client resolve ambivalence toward change and find the inner motivation to make positive changes.

Signs to Look For

Motivational interviewing therapy is excellent for addressing behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse. Using motivational interviewing, therapists can help people explore why they are engaging in destructive behavior.

Successful motivational interviewing requires that clients build a strong relationship with their therapists. When clients feel comfortable enough to share sensitive experiences that may have caused pain in their lives, they begin to heal. The use of motivational interviewing is cooperative and collaborative, honoring the client’s freedom of choice.

What Are My Next Steps?

To discuss motivational interviewing treatment options, speak with a therapist who is trained in this approach. They will help you determine your needs and treatment options.

Common Questions and Answers About Motivational Interviewing

Who benefits from motivational interviewing?

Typically people who are goal-oriented and looking to make positive changes in their lives respond well to this type of treatment. Teenagers wanting to make changes while maintaining their autonomy may benefit from this approach.

What techniques does motivational interviewing employ?

Motivational interviewing involves four main techniques:

  • Engaging the client by building a relationship of trust and helping them talk about issues, concerns and hopes
  • Focusing the conversation on habits or patterns the client wants to change
  • Evoking client motivation for change by stressing the importance of change, and assessing the client’s level of readiness for change
  • Planning practical steps with the client to help them implement the changes they desire

How effective is motivational interviewing?

There is quite a bit of research evidence suggesting that motivational interviewing is highly effective, particularly for people struggling with substance abuse. However, it is also effective treatment for other mental health issues.