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Motivational Interviewing is a therapeutic technique that helps people overcome ambivalence about a course of action, and in doing so makes behavioral change far more possible. Although a certain amount of ambivalence is quite normal when making any major life change (after all, there are usually parts of any lifestyle we have chosen that we enjoy, even if it does us harm) until we can resolve these feelings of ambivalence and really commit to a course of action, we are far less likely to succeed at behavior change.

A motivational Interviewing therapist works as your partner in a process to help you:

  • Understand your ambivalence about making a change in life
  • Understand where you are in life, where you want to be and how to get there
  • Decide, by yourself, what is the best course of action and then helps you to achieve any goals that you set for yourself

Ambivalence is normal, especially when considering making a major life change like quitting drinking or drugs, but while we remain ambivalent about doing something, we are far less likely to succeed at behavioral change.

We may want to stop drinking alcohol but we may also love certain aspects of the bar-going lifestyle…

Motivational interviewing is a therapy that helps a person develop a motivation for change that comes from within.

What Is Motivational Interviewing?

Through motivational interviewing therapy you are encouraged to think about and express your feelings of ambivalence and to think about the likely effects of differing courses of action. The therapist is there to help you out your thoughts in order to clearly express ambivalence, but the therapist will not promote any particular course of action or offer advice – that is up to you!

  • You decide what you want to do
  • You decide how you want to do it
  • Your therapist helps you crystallize your decision making and helps you explore your options for achieving your goal

Principles of Motivational Interviewing

  • You decide that you want to change, the therapist never directs or persuades
  • You must think about your ambivalence and be able to explain both sides of your feelings. Your therapist can help you to crystallize your thoughts on this, but the ideas must be yours alone
  • If you are persuaded by another person of any particular course of action, ambivalence will likely remain and this ambivalence will hinder behavior change
  • In an effective motivational interviewing relationship, most of the talking is done by you, not your therapist
  • Your therapist is your ally or ‘partner’ in the relationship1

Why Does Motivational Interviewing Work?

  • We are more likely to make life changes that we choose and commit to without external persuasion, confrontation or threat of punishment
  • Because the therapist does not try to persuade is any direction, we do not get defensive or end up playing ‘devils advocate’ against change we actually desire
  • When we are guided to think about what we truly want in life and when we can see clearly that out current behaviors will not lead us to a desired outcome we are more likely to desire real and lasting behavior change 2
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Page last updated Aug 30, 2010

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