Motivational Interviewing


Motivational interviewing is defined as a collaborative, client-centered counseling style that works to elicit and strengthen motivation for change. It allows the client to look at their assessment results and to objectively review their own behavior. The goal is for the client to make a clear decision and to state their desire to work toward changing their gambling patterns.

The thrust of motivational interviewing is having the client look at their feelings about gambling and to resolve any contradictory or inconsistent thoughts they may have. As the name implies, motivational interviewing focuses on what motivates an individual to want to change, rather than imposing an externally driven method that may not resonate with their belief system.

The Motivational Interviewing Approach
The basis of an effective motivational interviewing approach is rapport building between client and therapist in the early stages of the relationship. This will allow for better identification of an individual’s ambivalence about their behavior, a central core of motivational interviewing. The practitioner should listen closely to a client’s ambivalence because it holds the key to the potential and readiness for change, and use methods and techniques that help expand the dialog.

There are three essential elements of motivational interviewing:

    1. It involves a conversation explicitly about change (and how counseling, consultation and communication play a role);
    2. It’s collaborative in nature — it’s person-centered, based on partnership and honors autonomy; it does not have an expert-recipient dynamic; and
    3. It’s evocative, bringing out the client’s own motivation and commitment.

Motivational interviewing can be thought of in different ways depending upon perspective:

For the layperson, motivational interviewing is seen as collaborative dialogue that focuses on strengthening one’s motivation and commitment to change.

For the practitioner, motivational interviewing is seen as a client-centered counseling technique that helps a person address their ambivalence to change.

From a technical therapeutic definition perspective, motivational interviewing is a collaborative, goal-oriented communication method that emphasizes the language of change. By closely examining a person’s own rationale for change, the technique strengthens motivation to reach a specific goal.

The Whole of Motivational Interviewing
Motivational interviewing is a therapeutic method that embodies an overall spirit or clinical way of being that’s more than just a set of technical interventions. This spirit allows for the key elements of motivational interviewing to thrive. These elements include:

    • Collaboration between the practitioner and client; (i.e., a partnership);
    • The ability to evoke or draw out the client’s own ideas about change; and
    • Client autonomy (the responsibility for change is with the interviewee).

The Principles of Motivational Interviewing
There are four primary principles a therapist should keep in mind while employing motivational interviewing.

Express Empathy
Empathy for the client demonstrates acceptance and helps to develop a rapport between counselor and participant.

Develop Discrepancy
Developing discrepancy helps someone see that their present situation does not necessarily fit their visions for what they want in the future.

Roll with Resistance
Going with resistance prevents a breakdown in communication between participant and counselor and allows the participant to explore their views.

Support Self-efficacy
By supporting a client’s belief in their ability to change, the likelihood of change actually occurring is increased.

OARS — Practitioner Reminders
The acronym OARS helps to remind practitioners about the basic approaches and micro counseling skills used in motivational interviewing. OARS stands for Open-ended questions, Affirmations, Reflections and Summaries. The use of these skills will help move the process forward by establishing a therapeutic alliance and beginning a meaningful discussion about change.

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