What is Motivational Interviewing?

The main idea of motivational interviewing is to purposefully create a conversation around change, without attempting to convince the person of the need to change or instructing them about how to change.

Motivational interviewing is a therapeutic approach that was originally developed in the alcohol and other drug field by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick (Miller, 1983; Miller & Rollnick, 1991). Previous approaches to the treatment of addiction behaviours tended to view continued substance use as evidence of inherent personality defects, such as denial.

This approach utilises the principles and practices of personcentred counselling to encourage the young person to move through the stages of change and to make personal choices along the way. A young person’s resistance is viewed as evidence of conflict or ambivalence and is met with reflection rather than a confrontational style (Rollnick and Miller, 1995).

The following are the key principles of motivational interviewing:

Express empathy

  • Acceptance facilitates change
  • Skilful reflection is fundamental
  • Ambivalence is normal

Develop discrepancy

  • Awareness of consequences is important
  • A discrepancy between present behaviour and important goals will motivate change

Avoid argument

  • Arguments are counterproductive
  • Defending breeds defensiveness
  • Resistance is a signal to change strategies
  • Labelling is unnecessary for change

Roll with resistance

  • Momentum can be used to good advantage
  • Perceptions can be shifted
  • New perspectives are invited but not imposed

Support self-efficacy

  • The belief in the possibility of change is an important motivator
  • The young person is responsible for choosing and carrying out personal change
  • The young person should present arguments for change
Posted in Articles.