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What Is Motivational Interviewing?

William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick wrote Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change, published in 1991.

It was based on experience in the treatment of problem drinkers, and was first described by Miller in 1983 in an article published in Behavioral Psychotherapy. Miller and Rollnick describe it as such: “Motivational interviewing is a directive, client-centered counseling style for eliciting behavior change by helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence. Compared with nondirective counselling, it is more focused and goal-directed. The examination and resolution of ambivalence is its central purpose, and the counselor is intentionally directive in pursuing this goal.”

The basic principle is to bring forth intrinsic motivation from the client so that they will change their negative behavior patterns and resolve conflict.

This type of counseling is not like formal counseling sessions in that it does not impose techniques on a client. Instead, it is individualized, seeking what motivates change within the individual.

The “spirit” of motivational interviewing is based upon these principles:

  • 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. (The counselor’s job here is to get the client see each side of the conflict and guide them toward a solution.)
  • Direct persuasion is not an effective method for resolving ambivalence.
  • The counselling style is generally a quiet and eliciting one. (It is not aggressive or argumentative.)
  • The counselor is directive in helping the client to examine and resolve ambivalence. (There are specific strategies used to motivate change in a respectful manner.)
  • Readiness to change is not a client trait, but a fluctuating product of interpersonal interaction. (When a client expresses denial and resistance, it is not viewed as a client’s characteristic, but instead, it as seen as a problem with the way that the therapist is handling the specific topic or case. Resistance and denial are cues for the therapist to change their approach.)
  • The therapeutic relationship is more like a partnership or companionship than expert/recipient roles.

In 1994, Miller and Sanchez came up with the acronym FRAMES. This refers to the main components of MI. Feedback, Responsibility, Advice-giving, which provides a Menu of options, counseling with Empathy, and nurturing of Self-efficacy. Motivational interviewing is a relationship between the therapist and the client that is built on respect and autonomy. Regarding the client as an individual with a unique set of problems to overcome enhances the client’s internal competence for conflict resolution, thus gaining power that cannot be lost to outside influencers when making decisions for his/her life.

If you or a loved one are ready to reach out for help from addiction, contact us at (888) 989-9690.

Rollnick, Stephen and William R. Miller. What is Motivational interviewing? Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23, 325-334.

1 Response
  1. Lupe Taylor

    A colleague of mine informed me recently about MI and so, I was wondering if there are MI counselors in Fresno/Clovis, CA who are highly trained to perform this intervention with adults and children?

    Thank you,