What is Motivational Interviewing?

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Arizona rehab centers like Wolf Creek Recovery Center offer motivational interviewing (MI) to help people find motivation to make positive behavior changes. This client-centered counseling approach is especially helpful for people in recovery because they often have mixed feelings about changing their behavior.

For instance, some people who use drugs or alcohol may want to change their behavior but feel that they’re not ready to do so. Or they may worry that they won’t be able to cope or have fun without substances. Motivational interviewing aims to resolve this ambivalence so the person is motivated to change.

Since Wolf Creek Recovery Center offers this type of treatment, we want our clients to be aware of what it entails and how it can make a difference in their life.

Key Elements of Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is characterized by a particular ‘spirit’, which the therapist must maintain. The spirit of MI is based on the following key concepts:

  • Collaboration vs. confrontation. Collaboration between the therapist and client is important, as this is what leads to trusting relationships. It’s easier to form these connections in a collaborative environment as opposed to a confrontational one.
  • Evocation instead of education. Because the motivation to change must come from within, it’s imperative that the client’s ideas are heard. The therapist must ‘draw out’ the client’s true motivations to change – it cannot come from the therapist.
  • Autonomy over authority. It’s up to the client to create change in their life. They must put in the work. This is self-empowering, and there is no one ‘right’ way to change. However, clients must also take responsibility for their actions.

Principles Behind Motivational Interviewing

Aside from the three key elements of MI, there are also four basic principles that this treatment practice follows. These principles help build trust within the therapist-client relationship.

  • Express empathy. Recovering addicts are often afraid of being judged during therapy. But this is not the goal of MI. Instead, therapists are trained to be empathetic, which means seeing things through the client’s eyes.
  • Support self-efficacy. Counselors trained in motivational interviewing support their client’s self-efficacy by reinforcing their power to create change. They guide their clients and offer encouragement along the way.
  • Roll with resistance. MI recognizes that change doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, the client will choose a different path. Instead of criticizing the client, the counselor might reframe the situation in a different way.
  • Develop discrepancy. Developing discrepancy is based on the belief that a person becomes more motivated to change when they see a discrepancy between where they are and where they want to be.


There are a variety of techniques used in MI such as reflective listening, open-ended questions and positive affirmations. By using these strategies, people working through addiction are able to build self-confidence, take responsibility for their actions and have confidence in their power to change.

Motivational interviewing works well alongside other treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Finding an Arizona rehab that is versed in these therapies ensures you will have all the tools you need to recover from your addiction. To begin your path to recovery, contact Wolf Creek Recovery Center today.