How Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

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. The technique is often used with people who are struggling with addiction, but can be effective with any population. The key to motivational interviewing is building a rapport with the client and then gently challenging their thinking. This allows the person to explore their own motivation for change and ultimately make the decision to do so.

How Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

Motivational interviewing is a counseling style for helping people change their behavior. It is a directive, client-centered counseling style for eliciting behavior change by helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence. Compared with non-directive counseling, motivational interviewing is characterized by four process components: (1) engagement, (2) focusing, (3) evoking, and (4) planning. These four processes are described below.

Engagement is the process of developing a rapport with the client and establishing a helping relationship. This includes assessing the client’s readiness to change and engaging the client in the counseling process.

Focusing is the process of helping the client to identify and clarify the problem behavior that is the focus of change. This includes discussing the client’s goals and values, and exploring the discrepancy between the client’s current behavior and these goals and values.

Evoking is the process of eliciting the client’s own motivation for change by eliciting and exploring the client’s thoughts and feelings about the problem behavior. This includes exploring the client’s ambivalence about changing the behavior, and helping the client to see the pros and cons of changing.

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Planning is the process of helping the client to develop a specific plan for change. This includes identifying specific steps the client will take to change the behavior, and developing a plan to deal with obstacles to change.

Bottom Line

Motivational interviewing is a counseling style that helps people explore and resolve ambivalence about change. This research-based approach has been shown to be effective in a variety of settings, including healthcare, criminal justice, and addiction treatment. In motivational interviewing, counselors use a collaborative, nonjudgmental, and empathic approach to help clients resolve ambivalence and make positive changes in their lives.