Motivational interviewing (MI) is a counseling approach used in mental health and addiction treatment to motivate patients to change destructive behaviors. MI was first described by Professor William R. Miller, Ph.D., in 1983 and has since been used in the treatment of substance use and mental health disorders. A lack of motivation to quit drugs and alcohol is often the source of relapse or premature discharge from rehab, despite the numerous health issues, relationship programs, financial struggles, and legal consequences of addiction. Motivational interviewing therapy is offered at both of our Clearbrook rehab facilities – Clearbrook Massachusetts and Clearbrook Pennsylvania – to help patients understand their conditions and develop the independence needed to remain sober after rehab.


What Differentiates Motivational Interviewing From Person-Centered Therapy

While traditional person-centered therapy does not specifically aim to reduce ambivalence about change or increase intrinsic motivation to bring about changes, motivational interviewing does. While both Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) – also referred to as Client-Centered or Rogerian therapy – and Motivational Interviewing (MI) have humanistic roots and a client-centered approach, their specific techniques and main goals are different.

The key differences between person-centered therapy and motivational interviewing include:

  • Goal orientation: MI is goal-oriented, emphasizing the resolution of ambivalence and inspiring behavioral change. Although it promotes change, PCT is primarily concerned with personal development and self-actualization.
  • Application: MI is frequently used in contexts like addiction treatment or health interventions where changing behavior is the main objective. PCT is used in a variety of therapeutic settings, such as relationships, general mental health, and personal development.
  • Techniques: MI uses certain strategies, like decisional balance exercises, to address ambivalence and improve motivation. Conversely, PCT does not use particular change-focused strategies; instead, it depends on fundamental requirements such as empathy and unconditional positive regard.

While PCT and MI both adhere to humanistic principles, PCT places a greater emphasis on personal growth and self-discovery, while MI is more focused on behavior modification. The differences between the two approaches are found in their particular applications and techniques.

Why Motivational Interviewing Is Effective

The thought behind motivational interviewing for substance abuse is that all people dealing with addiction are at least partially aware of the negative consequences of their drug or alcohol use. MI is also based on the belief that each person is in a state of readiness when it comes to changing their behavior.

Motivational therapy activities are designed to prepare patients by helping them overcome ambivalence or a fear of change and increase their motivation to change. Many people with substance use disorders lack the motivation to accept treatment and change the course of their lives for several reasons.

Firstly, they’re in denial about their problem or don’t think it’s as serious as it is. Secondly, they don’t want to give up the positive feeling that drugs or alcohol may produce. Lastly, they’re afraid of what will happen when they quit drugs or alcohol, such as withdrawal symptoms or cravings.

Many people who have dealt with addiction for a long time go through a stage of grief in the early phases of recovery. Motivational interviewing is effective for treating addiction because it helps the individual see their strengths and abilities regarding recovery and changing their lives.

Motivational Interviewing Stages of Change

A therapeutic strategy called motivational interviewing (MI) is intended to assist people in examining and resolving their ambivalence regarding changing their behavior. MI frequently incorporates the stages of change model, also referred to as the transtheoretical model, to comprehend and address a person’s readiness for change.

These are the five stages of change in MI:

  • Precontemplation: People aren’t thinking about changing their behavior at the beginning. They might not see the need for change, or they might object to the concept. At this point, MI entails bringing the matter to light and investigating ambivalence to promote reflection.
  • Contemplation: Though they may still feel conflicted, people in the contemplation stage are aware that change is necessary. During this stage, MI is primarily concerned with examining the benefits and drawbacks of the change, as well as resolving any issues or obstacles.
  • Preparation: People have committed to change at this point and are actively preparing to act. During the preparation and planning phase, MI assists people in creating a detailed change plan, defining clear objectives, and resolving any roadblocks.
  • Action: People actively carry out their change plan when they are in the action stage. At this point, MI assists people in overcoming obstacles, staying motivated, and rewarding constructive behavior.
  • Maintenance: Sustaining the modifications implemented during the action stage is the goal of the maintenance stage. To maintain these modifications, MI supports people in strengthening their resolve, controlling potential triggers for relapses, and creating long-term success plans.

MI strategies, like affirmations, reflective listening, and open-ended questioning, are used during these phases to encourage cooperative and non-confrontational dialogue. Enhancing intrinsic motivation and giving people the tools they need to make and maintain positive life changes are the objectives.

It’s crucial to remember that people might alternate between these phases and that relapse is often seen as a normal aspect of the process of change. Because MI is adaptive and responsive, therapists can modify their strategy according to the patient’s readiness and current stage of change.

Motivational Interviewing for Substance Abuse at Clearbrook

Motivational interviewing and substance abuse treatment go hand in hand, and when applying this method to our levels of substance abuse treatment, there are seven key points of MI that our therapists maintain:

  1. Motivation comes from the client, not from outside sources (such as spouses or family members).
  2. The client, not the counselor, is responsible for resolving ambivalence or fear of change.
  3. Ambivalence cannot be resolved through direct persuasion; the person has to want to change.
  4. The counselor quietly elicits information from the client.
  5. The counselor guides the patient in recognizing and settling ambivalence.
  6. Understanding that readiness to change is a fluctuating result of interpersonal interaction, not a trait.
  7. The client-counselor relationship should resemble a partnership.

Additionally, motivational interviewing is a fairly simple process that is usually completed in a few one-on-one sessions. The typical steps of MI sessions are:

  • Engaging: Talking to the client about issues, concerns, and hopes and establishing a trusting relationship with them
  • Focusing: Focusing the conversation on the patterns and habits the client wants to change
  • Evoking: Bringing about client motivation by expressing the importance of change, confidence in their ability to change, and readiness for change
  • Planning: Developing a set of practical steps the client can use to implement the desired changes

MI is a client-centered model of addiction counseling designed to help clients realize and figure out what they want to change instead of focusing on what the counselor would want them to change. Although counselors are there to offer guidance and properly administer this therapeutic approach, the benefits of motivational interviewing therapy include self-awareness, accountability, and dependence, each of which the individual has to want to strive for.

Get Started Today

A lack of motivation can determine the course of a person’s recovery and whether they accept treatment to begin with. If you or someone you know requires addiction treatment but is hesitant to take that first step, we can help.

To learn how to get started with our motivational interviewing or other psychotherapy services, call  Clearbrook or contact us online today. Our team members are available 24/7 to answer your questions and help you with the admissions process.

Alumni Testimonial

“Throughout my addiction, I always felt alone. I thought no one understood what I was going through and felt as though I was always being judged. As my addiction progressed, I began to isolate more and more. I couldn’t stand the person I was becoming, so I hid from the world.  Before I knew it, I had no one else around. I was alone. When I first arrived at Clearbrook, I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. Then the most surprising thing happened. The other patients and staff welcomed me with open arms. The bond I created with my counselor and other staff was absolutely amazing, but also surprising, because for so long I struggled to really trust anyone. I feel as though I have gained tremendous knowledge about my disease and recovery in the different groups I attended. It also allowed me to practice getting comfortable talking about my feelings in front of other people and made meeting new people in AA much easier. Going to Clearbrook is by far the best decision I have ever made. They treat you like family and I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. No matter where I go in life or what it has to offer, I know that I am not alone and I’ll always have a place to turn.”

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