Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based therapy that addresses the expected and natural ambivalence that usually accompanies the prospect of change. Even when people want to change, intend to change and take the necessary steps towards change; MI understands that change is almost always very difficult.

In the case of someone seeking treatment for addiction or Substance Use Disorder (SUD), there is a high likelihood that they have admitted that drugs and alcohol have had a devastating impact on their physical, psychological and emotional life and the lives of their family and friends. Despite this recognition however, there is an intense desire to continue using.

Motivational Interviewing is the epitome of empathetic clinical practice. Through a non-judgmental, accepting approach, clinicians connect with clients and demonstrate acceptance and unconditional positive regards. MI is non-confrontational and is a style of intervention that clarifies the empathy a therapist has for their client as they “move with” potential resistance. Through this process, clients gain insight into their ambivalence for change and then explore the origins of that ambivalence with their therapist. This exploration provides a foundation for clients to begin the process of change and healing.

How Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

Motivational Interviewing is approached with three key elements in mind:

  1. Collaboration between the client and the clinician is the hallmark of MI. Teamwork built on trust and understanding of the clients unique experience and perspective is what leads to change.
  2. Evoking is the style in which the client and therapist communicate with one another. Clients offer their own thoughts and ideas rather than having the clinician tell them what is right or wrong.
  3. Authority and autonomy of the client is the central focus of MI as opposed to the idea of the clinician being the authority figure.

Motivational Interviewing was first designed as an intervention therapy in the treatment of alcoholism but has since been used for a broader range of substance abuse. It has also been found effective for treating a variety of mental health disorders, including eating disordersdepression, and anxiety.

What Is the Evidence Behind Motivational Interviewing?

Research has shown Motivational Interviewing to be highly effective, particularly in the treatment of drug addiction and alcohol abuse. In a clinical trial published by the National Institutes of Health in the United States, clients who received Motivational Interviewing had substantially higher abstinence rates. In another study of clients whose substance abuse was co-morbid with other mental illnesses, the integration of Motivational Interviewing as an intervention technique showed notable reduction in substance use in these clients up to a year after treatment ended.