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Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a counseling approach designed to help individuals resolve ambivalence about their alcohol and/or drug use, and support efforts to change it. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is often delivered as a brief intervention based on client-centered principles.

What is Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a counseling method that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings and insecurities to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior. It is a practical, empathetic, and short-term process that takes into consideration how difficult it is to make life changes.

Motivational interviewing evolved from Carl Roger’s person-centered, or client-centered, approach to counseling and therapy, as a method to help people commit to the difficult process of change. It was introduced by psychologist William R. Miller in 1983 and further developed by Miller and psychologist Stephen Rollnick. “The more you try to insert information and advice into others, the more they tend to back off and resist. This was the original insight that generated our search for a more satisfying and effective approach,” Rollnick writes. “Put simply, this involves coming alongside the person and helping them to say why and how they might change for themselves.”

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Motivational interviewing is often used to address addiction and the management of physical health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. This intervention helps people become motivated to change the behaviors that are preventing them from making healthier choices. It can also prepare individuals for further, more specific types of therapies.


Research has shown that this intervention works well with individuals who start off unmotivated or unprepared for change. It is less useful for those who are already motivated to change. Motivational interviewing is also appropriate for people who are angry or hostile. They may not be ready to commit to change, but motivational interviewing can help them move through the emotional stages of change necessary to find their motivation.

Research shows that motivational interviewing is effective in many contexts, including:

- Substance use disorder

- Smoking

- Weight loss

- Medication adherence

- Cancer care

- Diabetes care

- Health behaviors among children

How It Works

The process is twofold. The first goal is to increase the person’s motivation and the second is for the person to make the commitment to change. As opposed to simply stating a need or desire to change, hearing themselves express a commitment out loud has been shown to help improve a client’s ability to actually make those changes. The role of the therapist is more about listening than intervening. Motivational interviewing is often combined or followed up with other interventions, such as cognitive therapy, support groups, and stress management training.


Recovery Research Institute |

Motivational Interviewing |

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