What Is Motivational Interviewing?

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Motivational interviewing uses a nonjudgmental approach to counseling that focuses on the patient and helps discover why you should want to change your behavior without confrontation. There are four essential elements to motivational interviewing: empathy, a non-confrontational approach, resistance adjustment, and optimism or self-efficacy. How can it help specifically with addiction? Let’s look at how the four major steps apply directly to substance abuse.

What Is Empathy Through Reflective Listening?

One of the primary goals of therapists in motivational interviewing is showing you acceptance as their client and guiding your thought processes and decisions without judgment. Instead of imposing what your therapist recommends and encouraging you to follow their advice, they ask you a lot of open-ended questions to make you think about your behavior and how it’s affecting your life. Your therapist uses listening and responding to come up with questions that reflect your problems and give you the power to come up with your own answers. This empowers you to navigate your own path to recovery. Taking charge of your motivations helps build confidence in your ability to make smart decisions in managing your behaviors.

What’s the Difference Between Your Goals and Your Behavior?

With motivational therapy, your therapist uses questions to challenge you to think about the difference between what you want in life and what you’re doing. It focuses on your free choice and not trying to restrict you with the rules or guilt. This approach to therapy applies to many scenarios besides addiction. Although motivational interviewing was originally intended to help with alcohol and drug addiction, it can also be used for other forms of behavior modification. Healthcare, corrections, and school counseling use it to address issues such as smoking, gambling, non-compliance for treatment of chronic medical conditions, eating disorders, and even suicidal ideation.

What’s the Importance of Avoiding an Argument or Direct Confrontation?

One of the basic principles of motivational interviewing is using a nonjudgmental approach. People with substance abuse problems already feel guilty enough without someone condescending to them. Empowering people with the ability to make those decisions and changes in their lives without judging or confronting them helps them find the best motivation for long-term recovery. One of the side effects of this approach means that you, as the client, are in charge of your therapy and your recovery. This will boost your self-esteem and confidence in yourself.

What Does It Mean to Adjust to Resistance?

This may come as a shock to you, but sometimes people in therapy resist facing their behaviors and the mistakes they’ve made in the past. Okay, that’s probably not a shock to you at all, but the difference with motivational interviewing is how your therapist responds to that resistance. Instead of the therapist trying to take control of the situation, they allow you to resist without trying to force a change in your behavior–your counselor isn’t there to tell you you’re wrong. Once again, this is a nonjudgmental approach and your therapist shows understanding and empathy instead of telling you what you have been doing is wrong, per se. You need a counselor who can “roll with it” and support your decisions.

What’s the Best Way to Support Self-Efficacy?

First, let’s talk about exactly what that means when you support self-efficacy. This is where the optimism comes in. If you’re in recovery, you’ve probably tried to make changes in your life so many times that you may have lost faith in your ability to do it. It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that you can’t change–you’ve tried many times and it’s just impossible. Those are exactly the thought patterns that motivational interviewing can stop.  And that’s the bottom line in motivational interviewing. You can change–and you will be more likely to change–if you come to that conclusion yourself in an environment that is supportive, nonjudgmental, empathetic, and where you are in control. When you come to the conclusion that your addictive behaviors are at odds with your goals, you can finally make real change in your life and are committed to a new way of living.

What’s the Bottom Line With Using Motivational Therapy?

When you want to make real change in your life, they are five stages involved in behavioral change:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

Your therapist uses this model with motivational interviewing to assess whether you’re ready to change and to help you move along in those stages. Maybe they’ll ask you questions like “What is important to you? What does change look like for you? How can you make this change?” These are questions designed to make you think about your past actions and come up with the solutions to change those negative behaviors that trigger addiction.

This approach can take some time, which often means therapy must continue outside of detoxification and inpatient treatment. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) often provide quicker results, but motivational interviewing remains a very empowering and effective method of treatment that tends to stick with you longer.

Counselors use a whole array of techniques to help with substance addiction and recovery. One of the most empowering and positive tools they use is motivational interviewing. If you ever seen popular self-help guru Tony Robbins in an infomercial, he simply asks people pertinent questions and they come up with the answer. He doesn’t judge them, he doesn’t give them the answers, but he lets them figure it out themselves by asking the right questions. That is motivational interviewing in action. While change with motivational therapy takes time, your therapist can use it to make a more permanent change in behavior that helps prevent you from relapsing. Often inpatient rehabilitation centers use cognitive behavioral therapy because you can usually get quick results before your insurance boots you out, but motivational therapy can be better in the long-term for you. If you’re suffering from addiction or mental health issues, Everlast Recovery Centers can help. Call us at 866-DETOX-25.

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