Motivational interviewing

What is motivational interviewing?

'Motivational interviewing' is the name given to a particular counselling approach, originally developed by William R Miller in the USA to help people change addictive behaviours and, more recently, found also to be useful in helping people with other challenging behaviours including the areas of offending, health behaviours , employment and education.

Motivational interviewing (MI) uses some core skills common to other person-centred counselling and therapeutic approaches. These include open questions, affirmation, reflection and summarising. These skills are employed strategically to help clients to explore any ambivalence about change, and to unlock their willingness and ability to act in their own best interests.

Ambivalence is what we experience when we feel two ways about something. We want change AND we want to stay the same! The MI practitioner acknowledges that this is absolutely normal and facilitates the client to face up to and explore this internal conflict, exchanging information where appropriate to enable a sound, informed resolution.

Positive statements about the desirability and possibility of change are known as 'change-talk'. Change-talk is the precursor of actual change and the counsellor ensures that the client has ample opportunity and invitation to talk in this way. As change talk emerges it is reflected and summarised to help the client hear and ‘own’ it. MI is goal-oriented and the counsellor will work in a focussed way to help the client work out what she or he really wants to do about a particular behaviour change.

Motivational interviewing has been extensively evaluated in randomised controlled trials and its effectiveness has been proved in a range of problem areas and contexts.

A key textbook on this approach is Miller WR and Rollnick S (2012) Motivational Interviewing; helping people  change, (Third edition) Guilford; New York.

Also visit the website of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) click here.

For information on our new stepped learning programme go to our page on motivational interviewing courses and training.