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What is Motivational Interviewing and is it Right for Me?

Updated: Feb 23, 2023


How many of us want to make changes in our life but something keeps holding us back? If this sounds like you, you may be a candidate for Motivational Interviewing (MI), a proven method of counseling that helps people make positive change by discovering their own inner resources and incentive.

Motivational Interviewing is a science-backed, study-proven method that helps people move through the uncertainty, insecurity, and conflicting desires that inevitably arise around making a major change—whether in a career, a personal relationship, letting go of an addiction, coping with a health challenge, or just to regain a feeling of personal empowerment.

MI practitioners are trained are therapists or counselors certified in specific skills, techniques and strategies to help raise their clients' levels of motivation and help them learn to harness their own strengths to make positive change in their lives. There are five basic values that guide an interviewer:

Acceptance: The counselor accepts that the client is independent and autonomous and trusts in a person's ability to make their own life decisions.

Collaboration & Partnership: The practitioner-client relationship is founded on the client's point of view and life experience, not what the counselor thinks is the best way forward. Through open questioning, reflection and active listening, a good counselor will help clients discover their own motivations and support them in applying those motivations in their life.

Compassion: Using techniques based on empathy, active listening and reflection, the practitioner avoids jumping to conclusions or judging the client. Instead, the client and therapist work together as a partnership. Empathy means not imposing a point of view, but helping clients to recognize and express their own.

Trust: From the very start of the therapy the practitioner knows that the best ideas for change are already within the client. Even though the client may arrive feeling clueless, through empathetic collaboration and skilled questioning the practitioner elicits the client's own strengths and abilities.

How does MI work?

There are four main steps an MI practitioner or therapist will apply when working with a client based on MI's core foundations and principles:

Engaging: The practitioner goal is to engage the client in order to develop enough trust and rapport, dissolve barriers, and move past a client's uncertainty or ambivalence.

Focusing: This is the process of establishing a purpose and goal with the client, whether it's a life change, a problem behavior or a personal block the client wants to address and overcome. In this phase the practitioner and client work together to identify barriers to the process and work through them.

Evoking: In a gentle, non-confrontational way, practitioners help the client establish the reasons why they want and/or need to make the change. The practitioner helps the client formulate their goals and motivations and move past resistance in order to bring about the desired changes.

Planning: Here the practitioner helps the person to develop a plan based on the client's own insights and motivations. The practitioner helps the client identify behaviors to change and the tangible steps to achieve their identified goals.

Who needs it and why?

MI can be used to address a wide range of health and behavioral issues, including weight loss, diabetes, alcohol, tobacco or other substance misuse. MI is especially useful when the client wants to change but feels no motivation to do so, is resistant or even angry about change, or refuses to admit there's a problem.

How effective is MI?

Numerous studies have concluded that MI can greatly improve a client's symptoms and behavior when used by itself or in tandem with another type of therapy, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. MI not only helps the client identify the feelings and thoughts around the unhealthy or undesired behavior, it also helps the client build new ways of thinking and behaving that support change in the short and the long term.

How do I find someone?

There are many online resources for locating an MI practitioner. Or you can contact us at TheraVault, where we can match you with one of our MI practitioners.

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