Motivational interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a counseling approach designed to help people find the motivation to make a positive behavior change. This client-centered approach is particularly effective for people who have mixed feelings about changing their behavior. The main aim of motivational interviewing is to encourage the client to become an active participant in the change process by evoking their intrinsic motivations for change. And all this is despite ambivalence and what often seems like resistance, which is considered a normal part of the change process.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is based upon five general principles: expressing empathy, avoiding argumentation, rolling with resistance, developing discrepancy, and supporting self-efficacy.

1. Express and Show Empathy Toward Clients
Counselors or psychologists express and demonstrate empathy when discussing behaviors, thoughts, and life events that clients regularly engage in. By expressing empathy, counselors can start to build rapport and trust which, in turn, may help clients to become more open, sharing more of their personal history, struggles and concerns. This principle also accepts that clients might be ambivalent during counseling sessions, especially at the start of counseling. Skillful and active listening that reflects what the client shares are another component of this principle counselor's practice.
2. Support and Develop Discrepancy
During motivational interviewing, clients give reasons for changing their behavior – instead of viewing counselors as authority figures with the right answers. For example, clients might decide to stop drinking alcohol to build healthy relationships with their children. If clients are exhibiting behaviors and making choices that take them away from their goals, counselors gradually point out this gap between behaviors and goals to clients.
3. Deal with Resistance
When clients resist changing their behavior, counselors do not confront the client’s resistance. Instead, counselors avoid struggling to get clients to see their point of view. As discussions continue, counselors work with clients to get them to see and examine different viewpoints, allowing clients to choose which points of view they want to stick with. Furthermore, resistance, when it occurs, is a sign for counselors to alter their approach to talk therapy.
4. Support Self-Efficacy
Clients are made to feel that they are capable of achieving the change they want. This principle involves counselors discussing and pointing out previous behavioral and life successes clients have experienced. For example, counselors might remind clients recovering from a drug addiction that they have kept a job for two years and have been drug-free for six months. Current or previous strengths and skills clients possess are also discussed, thereby increasing the clients’ belief that they can change.
5. Developing Autonomy
Counselors demonstrate to clients that the authentic power for them to change comes from within, not from the counselor. This emphasizes the thought that there is no one way to achieve the change that clients want. It is also expressed to clients that they are ultimately responsible for changing their behavior. Additionally, counselors listen as clients develop a list of action steps they can take to change their behavior.