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Motivational Interviewing

Created on August 5, 2017. Last updated on January 11th, 2024 at 12:18 pm

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is therapeutic strategy which is based on the assumption that ambivalence is a normal reaction to treatment but often poses an obstacle to recovery. MI is an approach to therapy that seeks to elicit motivation in individuals who have previously expressed ambivalence to address—and perhaps acknowledge—their problems. This approach is commonly implemented with individuals who are suffering with substance use disorders, eating disorders, or those who are unwilling to change or are even hostile towards therapy (e.g., teenagers who are brought to therapy by their parents against their wishes).

This technique is commonly characterized by a focus on client-therapist verbal communication; evidence suggests that collaborative conversation, which is focused on change or “change talk” can be effective in reducing substance use and other problematic behavioral issues. MI seeks to foster an open dialogue that promotes internally motivated change in clients. In MI, the client generally speaks more than the therapist and the focus is on empathy, self-efficacy, and optimism.

Source(s): Moyers, T. B., Martin, T., Christopher, P. J., Houck, J. M., Tonigan, J. S., & Amrhein, P. C. (2007). Client language as a mediator of motivational interviewing efficacy: Where is the evidence? Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 31(3).

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 35.) Chapter 3—Motivational Interviewing as a Counseling Style. Available from:

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