Motivational interviewing (MI) is a therapeutic counseling technique in which the counselor works together with the patient to identify problems and facilitate ways to solve those problems, without being confrontational or imposing ideas on the patient. MI therapy is based on three concepts:1
MI therapy session is different from a traditional therapy session because the therapist does not tell the patient what to do. Instead, the therapist helps the patient figure out what to do themselves. They use these motivational interviewing techniques to accomplish this goal:3
Research has found that MI can be effective in treating addiction for people who need to begin the process of changing.4 A 2011 study found that motivational interviewing had a significant effect on substance use disorder compared to no treatment, with the strongest effect noted immediately post-treatment.5
Another study, conducted in 2016, found that MI was more effective in reducing the rate of hazardous drinking and cannabis use in adults.6 Hazardous drinking in the military was the subject of a 2010 study, which found that individual motivational interviewing was the most effective in reducing hazardous drinking in military personnel.7
However, motivational interviewing does have some drawbacks:8
Since motivational interviewing is a therapeutic tool that can incorporate into an overall treatment program, it works well when combined with other therapies.
It is not meant to replace behavioral interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or traditional counseling but can be an alternate method of communication along with other treatments. Motivational interviewing can help a substance abuse treatment program become more patient-centered and more effective for people trying to end addiction.