Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a collaborative, goal-oriented style of communication with particular attention to the language of change. It is designed to strengthen an individual’s motivation for and commitment to a specific goal by eliciting and exploring the person’s own reasons for change within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion. Developed by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick in the 1980s, MI has been widely applied across a range of settings and behaviors, including substance abuse, health promotion, mental health, and beyond.

Understanding Motivational Interviewing

MI is grounded in the concept that ambivalence about change is a natural and surmountable obstacle. The approach is client-centered and directive, with the practitioner guiding the client to verbalize their desire, ability, reasons, and need for change, thereby mobilizing internal motivations to make significant life changes.

Core Principles of Motivational Interviewing

  • Express Empathy: Demonstrates a genuine understanding of the client’s perspective and feelings.
  • Develop Discrepancy: Helps clients see the gap between their current behavior and their broader life goals or values.
  • Roll with Resistance: Avoids arguing, instead accepting and flowing with resistance as a normal part of the change process.
  • Support Self-efficacy: Encourages the belief in the possibility of change and reinforces the client’s own abilities to pursue this change.

Methodologies in Motivational Interviewing

MI employs specific techniques to engage clients and encourage them to articulate their motivation for change:

Open-ended Questions

Promotes discussion and reflection by allowing clients to express themselves in more detail, unlike yes/no questions.


Strengthens a client’s confidence in their ability to change by acknowledging their strengths and efforts.

Reflective Listening

Involves repeating or paraphrasing what the client says to ensure understanding and to encourage further exploration of their thoughts and feelings.


Helps to reinforce what has been discussed, highlighting both the client’s concerns and their ambivalence about change.

Benefits and Application

Motivational Interviewing has shown effectiveness across a variety of areas, offering benefits such as:

  • Enhanced Motivation: By exploring and resolving ambivalence, MI enhances clients’ internal motivation to change.
  • Increased Engagement: The collaborative nature of MI increases client engagement and participation in the treatment process.
  • Adaptability: MI can be adapted to support almost any type of behavioral change, from addiction recovery to managing chronic health conditions.
  • Improved Outcomes: Research has shown that MI can lead to better outcomes in health behaviors, treatment adherence, and psychological well-being.

Who Can Benefit from Motivational Interviewing?

MI is suitable for individuals contemplating change but experiencing ambivalence. It is especially beneficial for those looking to modify harmful behaviors or achieve personal goals related to health, wellness, or personal development.

Training and Practice

Practitioners of Motivational Interviewing include a wide range of professionals, from therapists and counselors to healthcare providers and social workers. Effective MI practice requires specialized training to develop the skills and techniques necessary to guide clients through the process of change effectively.


Motivational Interviewing offers a powerful and respectful approach to facilitating change, emphasizing the client’s internal motivation and commitment. Through empathetic and goal-oriented communication, MI supports individuals in navigating the complex process of change, ultimately leading to improved decision-making and healthier behaviors.