Motivational Interviewing

What is Motivational Interviewing (MI)?


Motivational interviewing (MI) is a cooperative and goal-oriented treatment practice for improving motivation and dedication to a specific goal. Together, the client and therapist (interviewer) use justifications for change directed by the patient to address indecision and turn the desired goal into actuality.


It is the therapist's job, through thoughtful listening, to execute MI's core Interviewing skills and help patients steer their way out of hesitation, pushing forward into change. These interviewing skills build the acronym OARS:


Open Questions—asking open-ended questions


Affirmations—emphasizing the positive


Reflective Listening—restating what is said


Summarize—collecting and linking what is said with the emphasis on change


Client and therapist move freely through four overlapping processes in the MI experience.

  1. Engaging—constructing a collaborative relationship between therapist and client
  2. Focusing—preserving a specific direction in change conversation
  3. Evoking—prompting the client's own motivations for change
  4. Planning—creating a commitment to change and developing a plan of action

The procedure of creating change is powered by four key elements that are the spirit of motivational interviewing:

  1. Partnership
  2. Acceptance
  3. Compassion
  4. Evocation

Benefits of MI


There are quite a few reasons why MI is a broadly used form of behavioral therapy, including:

  • Supports the client's self-confidence 
  • Assists clients to take accountability for themselves and their behaviors
  • Reduces the risk of relapse
  • Helps clients become more receptive to treatment
  • Showing clients that they have the power to change their lives themselves
  • Teaching clients to take responsibility for themselves

Motivational interviewing is especially valuable to people who are originally unwilling to begin a treatment program or who are not ready to make the important life adjustments.

Efficacy of Motivational Interviewing


Since MI was first introduced in the 1980s, studies have shown that it can effectively treat a range of psychological and physical health conditions. Research also shows that motivational interviewing is a strategic therapeutic tool in addiction treatment. The downside is that MI doesn’t work well with patients who don’t believe they have a problem, which is a stepping stone that needs to be crossed first.


Motivational interviewing can effectively treat a variety of conditions. But keep in mind that there is no one form of therapy that is applicable for everyone in every situation.


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