Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a therapy technique that facilitates a person’s intrinsic energy and desire to move toward behavioral change. Goal-oriented, and client-centered, the idea is to help clients find their own reasons for changing their behaviors by encouraging them to explore and resolve ambivalence, developing first the sense of choice and then working toward the healthier option. By detecting subtle energy and action language that connects the person to a positive and healthy goal, the therapist’s work is to influence clients to consider making changes deemed to be in their best interest, rather than non-directively exploring their own goals and values. The therapist actively looks for possible contradictions in a person’s thoughts and actions to help facilitate self-discovery and highlight the choices a person can make. Around a desired change, the therapist works to elicit personal motivation for that change from the client. The examination and resolution of ambivalence is a central purpose, and the counselor is intentionally directive in pursuing this goal. MI is non-judgmental, non-confrontational and non-adversarial. The therapist attempts to increase the client’s awareness of the potential problems caused, consequences experienced, and risks faced as a result of the behavior in question. The strategy seeks to help clients think differently about their behavior, and ultimately to consider what might be gained through change.

In Motivational Interviewing, there are Stages of Change that are used to assess a person’s needs at any given moment related to each different problem. For example, a person may be in the contemplative stage of tobacco smoking cessation while in maintenance stage of a recovery from heroin addiction.

These stages are:

  1. Pre-contemplation
  2. Contemplation
  3. Preparation
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance
  6. Relapse

This form of therapy is not only useful for people with behavioral addiction; it can also be used with many other issues regarding motivation. For example, weight loss, making a career change, leaving a relationship, etc.

The spirit of MI, comprised of four fundamentals that MI therapists must possess, is important to note, as this is a type of therapy that must be embodied by the therapist to be effective. The four fundamentals are acceptance, partnership, compassion, and evocation, and all four fundamentals call on the use of accurate empathy and collaboration with the client.