Motivational Interviewing (MI) is an evidence-based, collaborative and goal-oriented therapy approach for a behaviour change conversation. It is designed to help people find the motivation to make a positive behavior change. Client and therapist work together through motivational questioning and curiosity to uncover the ambitions of an individual and empower them to discover or work towards a goal. 

woman walking through maze on beach thinking about a motivational interviewing therapy session

Understanding Motivational Interviewing

Through a motivational intervention, client-centered counselling guides individuals to examine their circumstances and options in their situation. The therapist or mental health professional engages with the client as an equal partner – without providing unsolicited advice, feedback, or warnings. Rather, the therapist takes a non-judgemental stance as the client is the expert of their own life with the necessary resources and skills. Using collaborative dialogue, therapist and patient will have a change-focused conversation.

It’s possible to experience conflicting desires, such as wanting to change your behavior, but also thinking that you’re not ready to change your behavior. This is a supportive intervention using exploratory questions and reflective inquiry to help in resolving ambivalence and motivation enhancement to bring about the desired change.

The 4 Core Processes of Motivational Interviewing

Every person’s journey is unique. This is a patient-centred approach using key conversation strategies as core processes for motivational interviewing. Throughout the session, you and your therapist may move back and forth between these main processes as you uncover and explore dynamics. 

Engaging: Using empathetic listening and exploratory questioning, a therapist will try to understand a person’s experiences and what they are going through. This is the start to establishing a positive connection and building a relationship supporting a person’s autonomy and affirming their strengths.

Focusing: This step is about figuring out together what needs attention. Working collaboratively, the person and the counsellor share their ideas to agree on what they want to achieve and the main areas of concern.

Evoking: Gently encouraging the person to share their thoughts and what motivates them helps a counsellor uncover their reasons for change. It’s okay for the person to feel unsure. The therapist helps them work through those feelings without judging them. Any ambivalence will be explored to help the person clarify their reasons for making changes. 

Planning: Through an inquiry for readiness, this stage will focus on developing a plan for change based on the person’s insights. A mental health professional helps the person commit to the goal and come up with a plan that suits them best in achieving it. 

Motivational Interviewing Techniques

Techniques for motivational interviewing use dialogue methods and engagement strategies to facilitate an empathetic conversation. A motivation focused therapy designed to empower the person to explore their own motivations for change and ultimately make positive steps forward in their life. This might include:

Open-ended questions: These are questions that encourage the person to share more about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. They typically cannot be answered with a simple yes or no.

Affirmations: Offering positive affirmations acknowledges the person’s strengths, efforts, and achievements, fostering a supportive and nonjudgmental atmosphere.

Reflections: Reflective listening involves paraphrasing or summarizing what the person has said, which demonstrates understanding and empathy. It encourages the person to explore their own thoughts and feelings further.

Summaries: Pulling together key points from the conversation can help the person see patterns or contradictions in their thoughts and behaviors.

Change talk elicitation: Elicitation techniques involve asking the person about their motivations, desires, and reasons for change. It encourages them to verbalize their commitment to change and explore the benefits of making positive changes in their life.

Developing discrepancy: Helping the person identify the discrepancy between their current behavior and their goals or values can motivate them to consider change. Change facilitation  involves highlighting the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.

Rolling with resistance: Instead of confronting resistance directly, motivational interviewing seeks to understand it and then gently explore it further. This involves acknowledging the person’s concerns and exploring any barriers to change without judgment.

Supporting self-efficacy: Encouraging the person to believe in their ability to make changes and overcome obstacles is crucial. This involves highlighting past successes, strengths, and resources that can support their efforts.

Exploring ambivalence: Recognizing and exploring the mixed feelings or uncertainty the person may have about change can help them resolve their ambivalence and move toward a decision.

Developing a change plan: A collaboration technique to develop a specific plan for change, including concrete steps and goals, helps the person translate their motivations into action.

Motivational interviewing therapy can be particularly useful in situations where 

  • Someone is feeling ambivalent about a situation, with mixed feelings, and wants to uncover a path forward
  • An individual does not feel confident about making changes or doubt themselves
  • There is low desire or uncertainty about making a change
  • It is unclear how important the change is to the person wanting to explore the benefits and disadvantages.

Where Might Individuals Use Motivational Interviewing Therapy?

This approach is useful in a broad range of concerns. Individuals might find it useful for:

Ready to Book Motivational Therapy in London, Toronto or Across Ontario?

This patient-centred therapy is designed to elicit motivation for and commitment to a specific goal. We welcome individuals looking for additional support through a client-focused behavior change intervention as they uncover or take their next steps. Book MI therapy in London or online with one of our experienced motivational interviewing therapists. You can book online or contact us for suggestions of a therapist who might be a good fit for you.

Book Online