What are the main components of Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a person-centered method for strengthening an individual’s motivation for and commitment to change. The overall spirit or style of MI is collaborative and empathic and aims to elicit behavior change. Rather than working from a deficit model in which the therapist provides what the individual is missing (e.g., skills, insight, knowledge), MI seeks to evoke the individual’s own motivations, strengths and resources and then leverages those for change by seeking and developing change talk. Change talk is self-expressed speech that favors movement in the direction of change that expresses a client’s desire, ability, and reasons for change, conveys optimism about making changes, and states willingness and intention to change.

The Four Processes of Motivational Interviewing:

  • Engaging: The process of establishing a helpful connection and working relationship.
  • Focusing: The process by which we develop and maintain a specific direction in the conversation about change.
  • Evoking: Involves eliciting the client’s own motivations about change.
  • Planning: Encompasses both developing a commitment to change and formulating a concrete plan of action.

The Principles of Motivational Interviewing:

  • Express empathy: Involves seeing the world through the client’s eyes which is the basis for the client to feel heard, understood, and more honestly share their experiences.
  • Self-efficacy: A strengths-based approach that believes that clients have within themselves the capabilities to change successfully. Supporting self-efficacy includes focusing on previous successes and highlighting skills and strengths that the client already has.
  • Rolling with resistance or Dancing with discord: Avoiding eliciting resistance by not confronting the client when resistance occurs instead working avoid a negative interaction and helping the client to identify their own solutions.
  • Develop discrepancy: Developing a perceived mismatch between where someone is and where they want to be by examining the discrepancies between current circumstances/behaviors and their values and future goals.

Basic Skills of Motivational Interviewing:

  • Open-ended questions: Questions that can not be easily answered with a yes/no that invite elaboration, seek understanding, and elicit change talk.
  • Affirmations: Statement that recognize strengths and efforts.
  • Reflections: Holding up a mirror or reflecting back the client’s own words. Reflections seek to express empathy by demonstrating an understanding of the client’s perspective and guide them towards resolving ambivalence by eliciting, pointing out discrepancies, and reinforcing change talk.
  • Summarization: A recap of what occurred in a conversation, part of a conversation, or an entire counseling session. Summaries communicate interest, understand, and call attention to important elements of the discussion.

Visit the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers for motivational interviewing tools.

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