How Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

Motivational interviewing is a client-centric communication approach that aims to enhance your sense of intrinsic or internal motivation. It’s a collaborative, goal-oriented conversational style. Participating in motivational interviewing can increase your motivation and commitment to a goal. You talk about your reasons for change in a supportive setting.

MI works in the following ways:

  • Collaboration: In MI, there’s an emphasis on cooperation between the practitioner and the client. The therapist collaborates with their client, valuing their autonomy and expertise in their own lives instead of being authoritarian or confrontational.
  • Empathy: MI practitioners express empathy through active and reflective listening to what they say. The therapist also has to work to understand without judgment.
  • Highlighting discrepancies: In MI, you work to recognize the gap between your current behaviors and your goals or values. Identifying this gap can motivate you to explore and resolve your ambivalence toward change.
  • Roll with resistance: Rather than confronting resistance directly, an MI practitioner will encourage you to roll with it. This means the person assisting you will listen to your thoughts and ideas. They will also suggest different perspectives for you to consider.
  • Self-efficacy: You work with your practitioner to believe in your ability to change, which is self-efficacy. A practitioner of MI will encourage their client to recognize their strengths and past successes as well as the internal resources available to support a journey toward change.

Finally, through open questions, active listening, and affirmations, MI can help you explore your motivation to change, strengthen your commitment to action, and develop a plan to move forward.

What Is Motivational Interviewing Used to Treat?

MI is versatile and widely applicable, including in the following areas and conditions.

  • Overall health: Motivational interviewing can assist individuals in changing their health habits. These habits may include quitting smoking, taking medication as prescribed, and managing weight. It can help overcome barriers to change, building confidence in adopting healthier habits.
  • Mental health conditions: MI has a complementary role to traditional psychotherapy. Therapists can use MI along with other psychotherapy approaches to treat depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia. As a mental health treatment, MI can help individuals explore how ready they are for change and engage them in treatment.
  • Chronic disease management: MI is beneficial in managing various chronic health conditions, including hypertension and diabetes. It supports adherence to treatment plans, lifestyle modifications and coping with chronic illness challenges.
  • Children and adolescent behavioral problems: MI techniques can be adapted to work with children and teens. They can address behavioral issues, prevent substance abuse, improve academic performance and promote healthy relationships.
  • Criminal justice: In the criminal justice system, MI has been used to reduce recidivism rates, facilitate community reintegration and address substance abuse.
  • Employee assistance programs: EAPs may include MI to help with stress management, career development, work-life balance and conflict resolution.

Broadly, MI can create motivation and facilitate positive change in many different aspects of life.

Motivational Interviewing in Addiction Treatment

Motivational interviewing can also play a critical role in addiction treatment. It can help you explore ambivalence about change, increase your motivation for treatment and facilitate recovery.

You work with a therapist through MI to build trust and rapport, and a safe space for speaking openly. The therapist helps build this relationship by showing acceptance, empathy, and respect.

Many people struggling with substance use disorders feel ambivalent about change. They may experience conflicting emotions about continuing to use substances versus getting treatment. In MI, there’s an acknowledgment of the ambivalence so you can begin clarifying goals and values.

MI also aims to enhance your intrinsic motivation for change by exploring the personal reasons, values, and goals underlying the desire to change.

Rather than imposing things on you, MI empowers you to take ownership of your recovery and make your own choices, empowering you.

Other benefits of motivational interviewing in addiction treatment include;

  • MI addresses resistance to treatment without confrontation.
  • You can work on identifying and developing coping mechanisms for high-risk situations, cravings and triggers. You can look at your internal resources and the success you’ve had in the past to build confidence in overcoming challenges.
  • MI is a collaborative, ongoing, person-centered process that can support you throughout your recovery journey, whether you’re dealing with alcohol addiction or another substance use disorder. It reinforces motivation, addresses setbacks and celebrates your successes, helping you stay committed and engaged in long-term recovery.

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a foundational approach to addiction treatment. Its effectiveness lies in the potential to engage the client in the change process and address ambivalence, supporting sustainable recovery.

Taking the First Step to Recovery

At Invigorate Behavioral Health, motivational interviewing is one of many therapeutic modalities in our tailored treatment plans, including cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based approaches. Research has consistently demonstrated the effectiveness of MI in promoting behavioral change and improving treatment outcomes.

By engaging in collaborative and goal-oriented conversations with clinicians trained in MI, you can maximize the potential for a successful recovery and long-term well-being.

If you’d like to take the next step toward recovery, contact Invigorate Behavioral Health and learn more about our Los Angeles addiction treatment programs..

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