Guide to Motivational Interviewing

motivational interviewing guideMental health professionals and addiction specialists tend to agree that change can’t take place until the individual is ready for it. But how do you convince an actively using addict that change is necessary to save his or her life? Motivational Interviewing, or MI, is a therapeutic model that promotes change in substance abusers by encouraging them to set personal goals based on their own values. Unlike older schools of addiction therapy, which focused on external reasons for change, MI helps the client find internal reasons to get clean and sober. 

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing took shape in the early 1980s as an approach to helping alcoholics. Since that time, its principles have been refined, and its techniques have been tested in numerous research studies. MI is now widely considered to be an effective methodology for treating substance abuse. Motivational Interviewing refers to a series of techniques and methods, but it is also a treatment philosophy that emphasizes three core elements:

  1. Collaboration between therapist and client based on respect for the client’s background, goals and values
  2. Bringing out the patient’s internal motives to change rather than imposing values from an outside source
  3. Recognizing the autonomy, or personal independence, of the client in making deep and lasting changes

As a patient in an addiction treatment program, you might encounter MI in individual therapy sessions or group meetings. Therapists frequently use open-ended questions to lead the client to reflect on their feelings about recovery. Resistance is discussed openly yet respectfully, and the therapist takes the role of collaborator rather than authority figure.

What Makes This Therapy Different?

Motivational Interviewing represents a shift in the attitudes and language that therapists use when they work with recovering addicts. In the past, therapists often used confrontational language when dealing with this client population. The therapist was considered the expert in the relationship, instructing the client in how to think and behave. Counselors often took an authoritative attitude toward the recovering addict, instead of acknowledging his or her independence.

MI takes an empathetic, supportive approach, engaging the therapist and client in an effort to change the client’s life. Within a rehab setting, the objectives of this treatment model include:

  • Setting personal goals for recovery
  • Overcoming resistance to change
  • Encouraging the client to discuss his or her feelings about recovery
  • Affirming the client’s internal strengths
  • Supporting the client’s efforts to transform his or her life

How Effective Is MI?

A summary of research studies published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology indicates that clients who received MI were 10 to 20 percent more likely to reach their therapeutic goals than those who did not go through therapy. Studies also showed that the results of MI appeared to last for up to 12 months after treatment was finished, suggesting that this treatment model may help prevent relapse.

Many of the top rehab centers have adopted this client-centered, evidence-based approach to recovery. Motivational Interviewing helps build internal strength, reinforces self-esteem and empowers recovering addicts to make profound changes. If you’ve always believed that sobriety was beyond your reach, the work that you do in Motivational Interviewing therapy might convince you otherwise. Contact The Oaks at La Paloma’s admissions coordinators to find out how an individualized recovery program could help you start your own journey to healing.