What is motivational interviewing?
Motivational interviewing (MI) is a collaborative, goal-oriented style of counselling that
is designed to strengthen personal motivation for change. Initially used to treat addictions, MI is
now utilized to treat several physical and mental health conditions. Motivational interviewing is
also labelled as a communication style utilized by health practitioners. They use a combination
of specific techniques such as reflecting listening, shared decision-making, and providing
directive change talk such as advice-giving. A long-term goal of MI is to help individuals not
only recognize the importance of change in their lives but also link the purpose of changing to
their own beliefs and values.
How does motivational interviewing work?
Throughout motivational interviewing, the therapist aims to collaborate with you to
make joint decisions and activate your motivation for change while continuing to honour your
rights and freedoms.
Motivational interviewing is conducted by a therapist or health practitioner that utilizes
specific techniques to help individuals who are capable of change but are ambivalent about
making those changes. This is done by reinforcing self-motivational statements from the
individuals by prompting them to discuss their desires, abilities, reasons, needs, and
commitments to change. Motivating behavioural change can depend on the person’s stage of
readiness. The 5 stages of readiness include:
For example, someone in the precontemplation stage may be suffering from a substance
use disorder. However, they do not believe that it is that serious of an issue, so they are
unmotivated to seek help. In the contemplation stage, the individual requires MI by a
professional to get them motivated. In the preparation stage, the individual has made a goal to
change their behaviours, and with the help of a therapist, they are coming up with collaborative
goals to make these changes. By the fourth stage, they are actively making an effort to change
these behaviours, for example, attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The final stage is the
maintenance stage. In this stage, the individual is still working on change, but they have
maintained these efforts for a significant amount of time, and eventually no longer require
motivation from their therapist.
When is motivational interviewing used?
Motivational interviewing is effective in dealing with a variety of issues including:
- Alcohol dependence
- Drug and substance use
- Adolescent and teen issues
- Anger Management
- Personality disorders
- Mental health disorders
- Eating disorders
- Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Cognitive disabilities
- Coping with physical health challenges
- Coping with mental health challenges
- Communication disorders
- Conduct disorder
- Dealing with difficult people
- Developmental disorders
- LGBTQ2S+ issues
- Grief and loss
- Postpartum depression
- Self-esteem issues
- Family issues
- Caregiver stress
- Sexuality and intimacy issues
- Men’s sexual issues
- Women’s sexual issues
This type of therapy may be used to treat other conditions and concerns in addition to
those listed above. It may also be used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Your
therapist will work with you to determine the best treatment method for your individual
You should be aware that there is no treatment method that is successful for every person.
What works for you, may not work for someone else.
What to expect from therapy?
To put it simply, you will get out of therapy what you put into it. It’s not a magic solution
that will solve all your problems. It may involve you doing some real work and being completely
honest with yourself and your therapist. Sometimes facing our truth is the hardest thing of all –
but from that discomfort can come healing and growth.
Insight’s therapists are available for in-person, online, or telephone counselling at many
locations in Alberta. Contact us to learn more.
Arbuckle, M. R., Foster, F. P., Talley, R. M., Covell, N. H., & Essock, S. M. (2020). Applying
Motivational Interviewing Strategies to Enhance Organizational Readiness and Facilitate
Implementation Efforts. Quality management in health care, 29(1), 1–6.
Boom, S. M., Oberink, R., Zonneveld, A., van Dijk, N., & Visser, M. (2022). Implementation of
motivational interviewing in the general practice setting: a qualitative study. BMC
primary care, 23(1), 21. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12875-022-01623-z
Motivational interviewing: Stages of change. Recovery First Treatment Center. (2022, May 26).
Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://recoveryfirst.org/motivational-interviewing/
Resnicow, K., & McMaster, F. (2012). Motivational Interviewing: moving from why to how
with autonomy support. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical
activity, 9, 19. https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-9-19
Understanding motivational interviewing. Understanding Motivational Interviewing |
Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2022,