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MOTIVATIONAL INTERVIEWING

Motivational Interviewing is a collaborative conversation to strengthen a person’s own motivation for and commitment to change.

Motivational Interviewing is a client-centered therapy that addresses the common problem of uncertainty around change. It focuses on exploring and working through ambivalence and centers on motivational processes within the individual that help to process the change.

This method differs from more externally-driven methods for motivating change as it does not impose change. Rather, Motivational Interviewing supports change in a way that is congruent with the personal own values and concerns (Resnicow & McMaster, 2012). Having conflicted feeling about behavior change is considered a normal part of the change process. The skillful Motivational Interviewing practitioner is aware of a client’s ambivalence and uses techniques and strategies that are helpful such as:

  • Motivation to change is elicited from the client, and not imposed from without.

  • It is the client's task, not the counselor's, to articulate and resolve his or her ambivalence.


  • Direct persuasion is not an effective method for resolving ambivalence.


  • The counseling style is generally a quiet and eliciting one.


  • The counselor is directive in helping the client to examine and resolve ambivalence. 


  • Readiness to change is not a client trait, but a fluctuating result of interpersonal interaction.


  • The therapeutic relationship is more like a partnership or companionship than expert/recipient roles.

Motivational Interviewing is an interpersonal style, not at all restricted to formal counseling settings. It is a subtle balance of directive and client-centered components shaped by a guiding philosophy and understanding of what triggers change. 

Motivational Interviewing was originally used to resolve addiction problems, but it has since expanded into health care, social work, health promotion, dentistry, corrections, and mental health. Motivational Interviewing is short-term and can be between one to three sessions, but it can also be a part of a longer therapy (Miller & Rollnick, 2013).

Dr. William Miller

If you want to know more about Motivational Interviewing, listen to Dr. William Miller give an overview of the vital aspects of this important therapy model.

Dr. William R. Miller is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico, with over forty years of experience in teaching. He is a co-founder of the therapeutic model of Motivational Interviewing. Dr. Miller’s many books include Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change and Quantum Change: When Epiphanies and Sudden Insights Transform Ordinary Lives. Dr. Miller’s latest book, Listening Well: The Art of Empathic Understanding, was released in January 2019. 

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