Motivational Interviewing: Definition, Techniques, and Examples

Last Update on July 12, 2023 : Published on May 13, 2022
What is Motivational Interviewing

Motivational counseling is a newly formed approach that is specially designed for helping people to find motivation in order to make some positive behavioral changes in them. Motivational counseling is completely a client-centered approach.

This approach is really effective for people who lack motivation or do not have good feelings about changing their behavior. It is specially designed for people who are in a conflicted dilemma of wanting to change but are still not ready to change their behavior. This approach works on resolving the conflicting dilemmas by increasing the client’s motivation.

Motivational counseling was introduced by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick for treating addictions like alcohol addiction. Motivational Interviewing can be represented with the help of an abbreviation RULE:

R: Resist the righting reflex

U: Understand the patient’s own motivations

L: Listen with empathy

E: Empower the patient

It is certainly a unique way to empower people who are willing to take responsibility for their recovery. This blog covers everything you wanted to know about Motivational Interviewing.

Key Concepts of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is always implemented with a specific “spirit.” According to the developers of this approach, the “spirit” must be evocative, and collaborative, and should honor the autonomy of the client. This can be done with the help of:

1. Collaboration

Collaboration with the client instead of confrontation is a way of forming a partnership between the client and the counselor. During the motivational interviewing, the partnership between the two is totally based on experiences and the client’s point of view.

This approach is often contrasted with other approaches as well. Collaboration is all about building a rapport between the client and the therapist. It specifically aims to allow the client to develop a trustworthy relationship with the therapist so that there are no areas of a confrontational environment; instead, they both must collaborate with each other.

2. Evocation

Evocation instead of providing education is another way of maintaining the “spirit” within the therapy sessions. It’s all about striking clients’ ideas to bring motivation from within. Realistically, the ideas cannot be welcomed by the counselor; the counselor’s duty is to evoke the client’s ideas.

It is totally based on the belief that counselors will only be able to change someone’s behavior when they are willing to change. So, the counselor tries to draw out the true motivations of the client. Once the counselor has verified the motivation, the client has to use them to make a faster recovery.

3. Autonomy

Motivational interviewing is different than other treatment models. It basically focuses on an authoritative figure. Motivational interviewing is all about changing negative behavior within the client. And, the main point is that the counselor cannot demand such changes, the counselor can only draw out such changes from the client.

Another way to achieve this is to take action to change the behaviour of the client. They both must collaborate to bring this positive change. This must come as self-empowerment to the client and should serve as personal responsibility for their actions towards recovery.

Principles of Motivational Interviewing

We cannot deny the fact that everyone’s recovery journey is not the same and counselors cannot use a specific model for everyone. However, the counselor can draw a treatment plan on the basis of four principles of the motivational interview to fasten the recovery process.

These four principles are important to establish trust between the counselor and the therapist to form a therapeutic relationship. The four principles of Motivational interviewing are:

1. Expression of Empathy

The client may hesitate to enter into the therapy due to the fear of judgment. Some clients even feel guilt and shame when they talk about their negative behaviors in front of their therapist. However, the aim of motivational interviewing is to remove the judgment of fear from the client.

Instead of passing on judgments, the therapist tries to maintain the focus of the client to understand the situation from a motivational point of view. This helps to establish empathy between the two.

This helps in creating a safe space for the clients so that they can share their concerns without any fear of judgment or anything else.

2. Development of Discrepancy

Development of discrepancy is done to change one’s negative beliefs so that they can get motivated by who they are and what they want to become. The counselor tries to help the client to identify his/her core values so that the client can get clarification of the personal goals.

Actions and goals are developed in a trustworthy way so that both can collaborate freely without any pressure from the environment. This addresses the client’s needs, goals, wishes, values, and strengths.

3. Rolling with Resistance

Motivational interviewing is all about understanding the positive changes. It is quite natural to change someone’s mind about a particular thing; however, it takes a lot to change someone’s behavior on the basis of their new lifestyle.

This can be done by opposing, challenging, and criticizing the views of the client so that they can gain a new understanding of their behaviors. This can be done by reframing or offering different views on certain situations so that the client can change motivational values on the basis of their own goals and values.

5. Supporting Self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is a client’s confidence or belief about their ability to reach a target. The counselor follows the motivational interviewing by supporting their client’s self-efficacy by the reinforcement of the power to bring positive changes.

The counselor guides the client to make positive changes in the process by recognizing the positive change and offering new encouraging ways throughout the recovery journey.

Techniques used in Motivational Interviewing

Counselors who are trained to perform motivational interviewing help the client explore feelings and help them to find their own motivation. They do all of this on the basis of four techniques:

1. Open-ended Questions

In open-ended questions, the therapist asks questions that cannot be answered in a syllabic manner. These open-ended questions encourage the client to think more deeply about their issues, feelings, and emotions. Such questions help the client with words like what and how and it gives the opportunity for the therapist to learn more about the client.

The idea is to:

  • Let the client do most of the talking
  • Provide an opportunity for the client to learn more about the client’s values and needs

2. Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are the statement that helps in recognizing one’s strengths and positive behaviours. If they are done right, positive affirmations help to build someone’s confidence and the capability to change. You can always take the help of positive affirmations with the help of:

30 Positive Self Affirmations On Your Wall To Keep You Going

The idea behind using positive affirmations is to:

  • Build client-therapist rapport
  • Understanding the strengths of clients and making them noticed and affirmed

3. Listening

Listening or reflective listening is the most important skill used by all therapists and counselors. It helps the clients to understand that their counselors are listening to them and understanding their point of view. It also helps the clients to have a clear opportunity to clear out any misunderstandings and elaborate on their feelings.

The idea behind reflect listening is:

  • Understanding the real needs of clients
  • Providing a clear opportunity to clients

4. Summarizing

Summarizing the whole conversation is an important part of reflective listening. It helps to make the client understand that the therapist has been listening to their feelings and emotions. The therapist summarizes the whole conversation and the example of summarizing techniques are:

1. Collection: A collection of all the main points and thoughts summarizes everything.

2. Link: Linking the details with the major points of discussion.

3. Transition: Transitioning means wrapping up all the conversation at the end of the session.

Summarizing helps in:

  • Maintaining mutual understanding
  • Clearing out discrepancies

Uses of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing was introduced to treat substance use disorders however, they are also used to address conditions like:

  • Addiction
  • Heart diseases
  • Anger or hostility
  • Sexual behaviour
  • Smoking
  • Physical activity
  • Obesity prevention
  • Diabetes control
  • Diet
  • Promotes healthy eating habits

Sometimes, motivational interviewing is also combined with cognitive behavioral therapy for treating anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. This approach can also be used for fear of childbirth

Benefits of Motivational Interviewing

Below are some benefits of motivational interviewing:

Getting Started

If you feel that you or someone close to you should be benefitted from this type of counseling approach, you can consider getting help from:

1. Finding a counselor

You can always find a counselor through online platforms or in person. Make sure that the therapist you are going to see has been trained in motivational interviewing.

2. Checking with health insurance plans

Such therapies are mostly not covered by health insurance. Therefore, take some time and check if it does or not.

3. Preparing ourselves

Once you have booked your session with the therapist, prepare yourself for the clinical assessment as well. You will be asked to complete the paperwork, therefore, prepare yourself for the first session.

I hope this blog helps you to understand everything you wanted to know about Motivational Interviewing. Comment down and share your views on Motivational Interviewing. For more such content, connect with us on all social media platforms.

Thanks for reading!

About The Author

Aayushi Kapoor
Aayushi Kapoor

Aayushi is a Content Creator at Calm Sage. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology and a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Her constant interest in the improvement of mental health, nutrition, and overall wellness embarked upon her career as a “full-time educational writer.” She likes to make an asynchronous connection with her readers. Her mantra for living life is "What you seek is seeking you".

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As Seen On