Motivational interviews are a therapeutic technique that people can use to make positive changes in their lives. For example, this approach can make it easier to stick to an exercise routine or healthy eating plan, which is helpful for permanent weight loss.
Research shows that motivational interviews can also be helpful in treating addiction. For example, a review of 39 studies found that 67% of the studies found a significant improvement in outcomes for adolescents with substance problems...
What exactly is a motivational interview? It is a therapeutic approach that follows three key concepts and involves the use of four guiding principles.
3 key concepts of the motivational interview
Motivational interviews are based on three key concepts that are directly related to the relationship between therapist and patient. These concepts are:
- Cooperation through confrontation
- Draw out an individual’s ideas instead of the therapist imposing their ideas
- Autonomy of the person with the addiction instead of the therapist who has authority
What do these concepts mean and how do they make it easier to overcome addiction? Let’s look at them one by one.
Cooperation vs. Confrontation
Collaboration is a partnership that is formed between the therapist and the person with the addiction. In motivational interviews, this relationship is based on the person’s point of view and experiences with the addiction.
This is in contrast to some other approaches to addiction management, especially those where the therapist is confrontational. In these treatments, the therapist asserts his own point of view on the person’s addictive behavior.
Working together has the effect of building a relationship between the therapist and the person with the addiction. It allows the person to develop trust with the therapist, which can be difficult in a confrontational atmosphere.
This does not mean that the therapist always agrees with the person with the addiction when using motivational interviews. Instead, the therapeutic process involves creating a mutual understanding in which no one is right or wrong.
Developing ideas rather than imposing them
The idea that the therapist works out the individual’s ideas instead of enforcing his or her own opinions is based on the belief that the motivation for change comes from within. As such, it cannot come from the addiction therapist.
Regardless of how much the therapist wants a person to change their behavior, it only happens if that person wants to make changes too. So it is the therapist’s job to work out the person’s real motivations for this change.
Once these motivators are identified, the person with addiction can use them to ease the recovery process or to help them move on when they want to give up. This creates a very different feeling than a therapist telling the person with the addiction what to do.
Autonomy over authority
In contrast to treatment models that highlight the therapist as an authority figure, the motivational interview recognizes that the real power for change lies in the person with the addiction. The therapist cannot request this change.
In other words, it is up to the individual to take the necessary steps to achieve recovery from addiction. You have to put in the work. This gives the individual self-empowerment, but also gives them personal responsibility for their actions.
4 guiding principles for motivational interviews
Although each person’s journey is different, therapists using motivational interviews stick to four principles throughout the recovery process. These principles are critical to building trust in the therapeutic relationship.
Principle # 1: Offer empathy and acceptance
Addicts often hesitate to seek treatment because they do not believe that the therapist will understand why the addictive behavior means so much to them. They are afraid that they will be judged.
Some even feel guilty about their addictive behavior, which makes this judgment valid in their eyes. But judgment is not about motivational interviews.
Rather than judging the person with the addiction, the therapist focuses on understanding the situation from the point of view of the addicted person. This is known as empathy.
Empathy does not mean that the therapist agrees with the person, but that he understands the behavior of the individual. It made sense to them, or it did at the time the behavior was performed. This creates an atmosphere of acceptance.
Principle # 2: Help people make choices
Motivational interviews recognize that it is difficult to quit an addiction. Also, people with addictions are usually ambivalent and unsure whether or not they want to change.
Her addiction has likely already had negative consequences for those who have referred her to treatment. Still, they have developed their addiction as a means of coping with life and don’t necessarily like the idea of giving up.
Motivational interviews help solve this problem by helping people decide how to go through the stages of change. It helps them study the pros and cons of various choices and actions.
Goals and measures are developed in a trusting, collaborative atmosphere without pressure. This provides an environment based on the needs, desires, goals, values and strengths of the individual.
Principle 3: Develop a new understanding
Motivational interviews understand that change doesn’t always happen just because the individual wants it. It is natural for them to change their minds often about whether they want to give up their addiction and what this process or their new lifestyle looks like.
Instead of challenging the person with the addiction to oppose or criticize them, the therapist helps them achieve a new self-image. They are also working to change what their addiction means to them.
One way to do this is to redefine certain situations or interpret them differently. This changing point of view increases the person’s motivation to change. It is based on their own goals and values.
For example, if a person finds that they have started drinking to deal with a partner’s infidelity, the therapist can help them redefine the situation. Instead of blaming themselves, they may find that the person cheated because of their own problems.
Principle # 4: Be Supportive
Using a motivational interview approach, a therapist will support the addict and strengthen their ability to make the desired changes. They guide them through the addiction recovery process and offer encouragement in the process.
Studies show that feeling of support is crucial to recovering from addiction..It helps the person create a new identity as someone who is no longer addictive. It also increases their self-esteem.
In the beginning the therapist may have more faith in the individual than in himself, but this will change with continued support. Soon, the person with addiction begins to realize their abilities and strengths in order to achieve a full recovery.
Research suggests that motivational interviews can be effective in reducing excess alcohol, as well as the frequency and amount of alcohol consumed, in adult population groups...
Research has found that motivational interviews are not effective in young adults, a population that may have a genetic predisposition to drinking..Because of this, they may not respond as quickly to motivational interviews.
However, one study found that motivational interviews may be more effective than other types of brief interventions when conducted with young people in emergency rooms...