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Motivational Interviewing

//Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing

Let’s start with the basic definition of what Motivational Interviewing (MI) is and what it is used for in a clinical setting. To begin, motivational interviewing is “a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change.” Change can be difficult and overwhelming for some. Client’s often come to therapy because they are experiencing ambivalence. Ambivalence is a fancy way of saying you have contradictory feelings about a situation and aren’t sure what to do. Therefore, clinicians use MI to help strengthen client’s desires, abilities, reasons, and need for change.

Motivational Interviewing is guided by four key principles. These are:

  1. Express Empathy: Empathy is a key component of motivational interviewing. The therapist listens carefully to the patient and conveys that they understand the patient’s feelings, beliefs, and experiences.
  2. Support Self-Efficacy: MI posits that clients possess the strength and ability to grow and change—even if past attempts at change have failed. The therapist supports the patient’s belief in themselves that they can change. The therapist may do this by calling attention to the patient’s skills, strengths, or past successes.
  3. Roll with Resistance: If the patient is struggling to change, they may resist potential solutions or the therapist’s guidance. In MI, the therapist avoids becoming defensive or argumentative if they encounter resistance. Instead, they help the patient identify the problem and solution themself. The therapist doesn’t impose their viewpoint on the patient but helps the patient consider multiple viewpoints.
  4. Develop Discrepancy: The therapist helps the patient identify discrepancies between their present circumstances and their future goals. What thoughts and behaviors do they need to change to achieve those goals? The therapist guides the patient in spotting this discrepancy and solutions to reduce it.

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

Benefits of MI include: Helping clients to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Encouraging clients to envision a future free of substance abuse or mental health struggles. Preparing clients to become more receptive to treatment.

Making a change requires a client to be willing, able, and ready. Feeling willing is the first step. Recognizing that something should change shows willingness and openness to doing things differently. Next is confidence in their ability to make change. Change is hard, and the client will have to feel up to the task. Being ready requires a sense of urgency and a desire to prioritize.

Remember, there is no easy way to ensure one stays motivated 100% of the time. But you can ensure the client that if they continue to do their best to find and refine a plan that works for them, it will pay off. It’s about persistence. Encourage them to keep at it and continue trying different techniques for positive information.


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