Motivational Interviewing

“Motivational interviewing is a collaborative conversation style for strengthening a person’s own motivation and commitment to change.”

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an approach that addresses addiction and behavioural change and was developed by William R. Miller. It emerged in response to the prevalent approaches to addiction at the time that did not emphasize a person’s readiness for change, and rather tended to blame the addict. He recognized that in egalitarian and empowering relationships, clients tended to fare better and engage more in the process of change and devised an approach to treatment based on this philosophy.


MI is based around the principles of partnership, acceptance, compassion, and evocation. Therapists partner with clients rather than taking an expert role and collaborate with clients to navigate the process of change. MI values a spirit of acceptance and compassion towards those seeking change and recognizes that while parts of a person may want to change, it is normal to have some ambivalence. Exploring this ambivalence helps evoke the desire to change from within the client themselves, and therapists are careful not to impose their own agenda on the change process.


MI sees ambivalence as an often necessary part of change and therapists aid clients in exploring the parts of themselves that want to change as well as the parts that do not in an accepting and non-judgmental fashion. By doing this, clients get a chance to understand both the benefits of changing or giving up a behaviour as well as the benefits that the behaviour has provided that make it difficult to give up. Therapists facilitate this exploration by asking open-ended questions without inputting their own judgements or advice. In this way, the process is led by the client so they have the sense of being empowered and in control of the process while simultaneously having the support and understanding of their therapist. Some questions that may be discussed include the reasons for wanting to change, the importance to the client of making these changes, how the client might want these changes to look, and how confident they feel in carrying out change. Clients can expect a collaborative partner who is genuinely interested in their process and respectful of their autonomy.

Miller, W. R. & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: helping people change [3rd ed.]. New York: The Guildford Press.

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Motivational Interviewing

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