How Can Motivational Interviewing Help You?

Home / blog / How Can Motivational Interviewing Help You?


How Can Motivational Interviewing Help You?

It may be common to think of addiction rehabilitation as simply detoxification and withdrawal management. However, that essential component is just one small part of progressing into healthy recovery. It’s truly vital for an individual to understand their reasons for addiction and access new techniques to better understand themselves. How can motivational interviewing help you with this goal? Here’s what you need to know.  

What is Motivational Interviewing?   

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a multifaceted, evidence-based practice used to encourage behavioral changes. First developed in the 1980s by William R. Miller, a psychology and psychiatry professor now retired from the University of New Mexico, this technique helps therapists work with individuals to strengthen their motivation and commitment. It’s been studied in more than one thousand controlled clinical trials over 40 years, primarily with people managing alcohol use disorder (AUD) and substance use disorder (SUD). 

“MI is an alternative to the usual approach of educating clients and trying to persuade them to change. Simply advising clients to change is usually ineffective and can even entrench the status quo,” Miller has said. “MI has been found to be useful in helping people change across a broad array of problems in counseling and psychotherapy, health care, coaching, social work, and education.”

Excellence in Motivational Interviewing explains that Miller and another researcher, Stephen Rollnick, now define MI this way, which we provide verbatim:

  • MI is a guiding style of communication that sits between following (good listening) and directing (giving information and advice).
  • It’s designed to empower people to change by drawing out their own meaning, importance, and capacity for change.
  • The process is based on a respectful and curious way of being with people that facilitates the natural process of change and honors client autonomy.

The process utilizes core person-centered counseling skills under the acronym of OARS, described as: 

  • Open-ended questions, instead of those only allowing for yes/no answers.
  • Affirmations by the therapist of a person’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Reflective listening to help an individual feel heard and understood.
  • Summarization, so both client and therapist have the same clear picture.

For people who’ve never experienced therapy before, or haven’t liked the approach of previous sessions, MI is often a more enlightening partnership to help unlock numerous aspects of who you are and who you want to become.  

Using Motivational Interviewing in Addiction Recovery

So how might MI work for your sobriety journey? Here are some key points to consider.  

  • It’s an exploration of change. MI helps you explore and understand your conflicting feelings about recovery, allowing you to openly discuss both the desire to change and the resistance to change. It also helps you understand the underlying reasons for this resistance and work to use different ways to eliminate the barriers to positive change. The approach is flexible and adapts to your current stage in the recovery process.
  • You tap into personal motivation. By discussing your values, goals, and aspirations, an MI therapist helps you connect these aspects to the recovery process, making it more personally meaningful. With this focus, you have a better opportunity to build self-efficacy, which the American Psychological Association defines as “confidence in the ability to control one’s motivation, behavior, performance and social environment.” By discussing your past successes and strengths, the therapist helps you recognize your capacity for change.
  • It’s a collaborative approach. Finding the right therapeutic method for your needs is critical to your success in avoiding burnout in recovery. You have to trust in a specialist who’s your partner in wellness. MI emphasizes a collaborative and non-confrontational approach. The therapist works with you rather than directing you, fostering a partnership in the decision-making process. Through reflective listening, empathy, and understanding, you feel heard and understood, which improves your willingness to participate in the recovery process. 
  • You have control to plan and set goals. The MI process respects your autonomy and acknowledges that the decision to change ultimately lies with you. The therapist’s role is to support and guide you rather than impose solutions. You’re given an opportunity to set realistic and achievable goals for recovery that align with your values and motivations. 

This video demonstrates just one example of how motivational interviewing might work for you. 

Remember, the effectiveness of this technique varies for each person, and it’s essential to work with a trained therapist to tailor it to your specific needs. Also recognize that this process, just like any other form of counseling, takes time. Be patient and curious about the journey and encouraged by the opportunities to come. 

Rely on Focused Addiction Treatment at Seabrook 

Although this approach can be used by anyone open to it, Seabrook has four award-winning addiction treatment centers in New Jersey that offer the Tactical Recovery program, which includes motivational interviewing as one of its many treatment options to help those who served. At Seabrook, our goal is to offer the best evidence-based solutions that fit into a customized continuum of care plan for each individual. If you or a loved one is ready for this type of comprehensive approach, please call our admissions department today so we can answer any questions you might have.